A desire for her and her siblings’ grandchildren to have an equal opportunity to achieve is why Nancy Caiger got involved in an initiative focused on the needs and aspirations of local women and girls.

The Waikato Women’s Fund, which is enabled by the Momentum Waikato Community Foundation, was launched with a gala event at The Meteor in Hamilton in late July. A philanthropist in her own right, Nancy is also a keen member of the Fund’s establishment team.

“I wanted my gifts to provide some leverage, a base that others can build upon in the years ahead.”

Nancy grew up in Singapore and knows what it means to ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’. But her years in New Zealand and Britain have shown her the provision of a ‘social safety net’ is also important.

She sees personal responsibility as critical, but recognises that the options available to people are sometimes set by the economic system and those who profit from human failure.

“I try to balance the two sides. As a society, we have a responsibility to provide a ladder up for those who are willing and able to take it.”

Nancy was the founding chair of the Hamilton Combined Christian Food Bank Trust set up in 1998 and has been involved in a budgeting advisory service for her church.

“I am now known more for my support for the arts, but I have also worked a lot in the community sector. I have been in the newspaper, standing in front of empty shelves that needed to be filled with food.”

The Waikato Women’s Fund follows the example of the Auckland Foundation’s Women’s Fund. Research shows women donate differently – smaller more frequent giving over longer timespans, with a real interest in those who benefit.

The Waikato has a number of great general funders, but Nancy could see the need for a sustainable support system guided by and targeted at local women.

“We are in no way diminishing the issues that men specifically face. It is in everyone’s interest that the barriers to women reaching their potential are removed.

“I don’t want my young ones, when they achieve, to feel they are ‘stepping over’ men. Or that achieving makes them ‘one of the boys’ and somehow lessens them as women.”

Nancy splits her own financial commitment to the Waikato Women’s Fund, so it can both address immediate issues and build capacity for the future.

“If all you’re doing is giving money to be spent, you’re constantly having to start again. An endowment fund is the key to longevity and effectiveness, so I have committed to helping to build the Women’s Fund for five years, while also giving a separate amount for immediate impact.

“Down the track we want income from investment to be the source of the monies distributed, so our successors can focus on identifying and addressing needs and issues, rather than chasing funds.

“However, there are also priorities for women now, where some funding can make a huge difference. A balance between immediate and longer-term benefit is a model I think people can engage with.”

The Waikato Women’s Fund Launch event was a huge success.

“It was just great to be in a room of women really excited about what we are doing, feeling empowered by the establishment of a group that recognises this need exists.

“Both speakers, Gill Greer [Chief Executive of the National Council of Women of New Zealand], and Dellwyn Stuart [founder of the Auckland Foundation’s Women's Fund] brought attention to hidden facts. We think we’ve come a long way in 125 years, but have to ask, ‘are we there yet?’.”

What does success in five years look like for the Waikato Women’s Fund?

“Having a good strong endowment fund, with its income being the source of distributions. And lots of time and energy going into identifying and addressing needs and issues.

“Most importantly, in the community, we want to have made an impact on those negative statistics. To see measurable change.

“We want to bring everyone along on the journey, to put across our viewpoint and move forward.”