Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Dragons' Den funding a winner

Michaela Jackson enjoys a class at Circability after it won $10,000 from the Funding Network to introduce circus skills to disabled people. Photo / Dean Purcell
Michaela Jackson enjoys a class at Circability after it won $10,000 from the Funding Network to introduce circus skills to disabled people. Photo / Dean Purcell

New Dragons' Den-style events at which local charities pitch for funding to an audience is taking off in New Zealand.

Generous Kiwis have so far pledged $260,000 to 16 groups through the scheme. Individual donations have ranged from $100 to $5000. The Funding Network operates in a similar way to the online crowd funding craze, in which numerous investors plough cash into start-up businesses.

But unlike TV smash Dragons' Den or internet crowd funding, with The Funding Network, people pledge money to non-profit organisations at live events and do not ask for a share of the business or any financial return.

Four successful events have been held in Auckland and Wellington and the scheme will this year expand to Christchurch.

"People like what we do because they get to meet the people they are pledging money to," said Hilary Sumpter, chief executive of the Auckland Communities Foundation, which helps run The Funding Network.

Each group chosen gets coaching sessions from business professionals on how to pitch. They then have six minutes to present their case to an audience of up to 150 and another six minutes to answer questions.

The scheme has so far benefited non-profit businesses offering services such as assistance dogs, creative arts, clown doctors and music and talent development for underprivileged kids.

After an Auckland event last year, one donor, who pledged $3000 on the night, subsequently made another $80,000 donation - $40,000 to each of two charities.

The idea was launched in the UK in 2002 by London art dealer Dr Fredrick Mulder and brought to New Zealand in 2014.

The AUT Business School, The Gift Trust, The Macquarie Group Foundation and Macquarie Private Wealth NZ are key supporters of The Funding Network.

Auckland-based community group Circability recently secured $10,000 to go towards introducing a programme for disabled youngsters to learn circus skills.

Circability won over the audience by having some of its performers entertain the crowd on the night.

How it works

• Funding Network members nominate four projects from the received applications.

• Chosen projects are mentored and receive pitch training before the event.

• Guests arrive early in the evening for drinks, nibbles and a chat.

• Projects pitch for six minutes and take questions from the audience for six minutes.

• Facilitated pledging session kicks off with advocates championing each project.

• Guests give upwards of $100 in a live pledging session.

• Totals are tracked live and celebrated over drinks at the end.

• A year later, all projects report back to donors on the impact of funding.

- Herald on Sunday

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