A response from the Chairman to recent media criticism of charities

Thursday, 1 September, 2011
Neurological Foundation

A message from Ian Robertson, Chairman of the Neurological Foundation.

Recently, there have been several controversial reports about charities in the media critical of some organisations. These focused on cases where it appeared the bulk of appeal donations were spent on operating costs.

I suspect many of you are concerned by these reports and I would like to reassure you that the Neurological Foundation’s sound financial management ensures your donations are used appropriately – to help end the suffering caused by neurological disorders.

The Neurological Foundation has existed for more than thirty years and is funded not by the government but by you - our supporters. This partnership with the community has allowed the Foundation to quadruple its funding for research from $450,000 in the 1990s, to a commitment of $1.9 million for new research last year. Your contribution has helped progress vital neurological research.

Last year, the Foundation received $1,313,000 in donations from our supporters, and for the last financial year spent $1,717,529 on neurological research, with the balance coming from other sources, primarily investments. The Foundation invests income from bequests to ensure money is available to run the organisation and to fund research in the long-term. It is a robust financial policy, and needs to be, to guarantee the funding for ongoing research.

Donations from our members and supporters are vital for the health of New Zealanders - now and in the future. The Foundation’s training and research grants have benefited virtually every neurology or neurosurgery ward in the country. Your support has also helped train the leading neuroscientists of today and enabled New Zealand scientists to achieve groundbreaking research. The pioneering work of Professor Richard Faull’s team with adult stem cells is a case in point. This would not have been achieved without the Foundation’s commitment to funding the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank.

The vision and generosity of our supporters led to the establishment of the Chair of Clinical Neurology in March 2008.Already this team’s research holds great promise for the prevention of stroke and the rehabilitation of stroke survivors. Supporters have also funded research to identify brain injury in premature and at risk babies to improve the lives of these children. The list of benefits and their value to society is immeasurable and it is a return on investment that has huge potential to change many lives.

Nonetheless, investment in research, training, education, brain health awareness campaigns and supporter services incurs expense. Unfortunately, it also costs money to raise money and to run any organisation. But the Foundation exercises a prudent approach to expenditure. We have just one office which was purchased with funds from the ASB Charitable Trust, the Charles Scott Trust, and the Lotteries Grants Board. It is also generously supported by a dedicated group of regional volunteers who help the office staff where they can. Importantly, members of the Foundation’s Scienti?c Advisory Committee - leading neurologists and neuroscientists - volunteer many hours of their own time to review complex grant applications prior to the funding rounds twice a year. Our volunteers make a vital contribution to the Foundation and I cannot put a price to that.

But rates, postage, the travel and accommodation costs of our Scientific Advisory Committee, salaries of our dedicated and highly professional staff, plus other bills need to be paid. This is the reality of running a national organisation that, thanks to our supporters, has raised millions over the years to fund life-changing research. I can assure you that every item of expenditure is carefully scrutinized by the Foundation’s executive committee.

To conclude, I hope the information I have given you clarifies the Foundation’s financial management of donations and addresses any concerns you may have had. Should you wish to see our audited accounts or want any further information please contact the executive director, Max Ritchie, Tel (09) 377 3604 Email max.ritchie@neurological.org.nz

I would also like to thank you for your support in making the valuable work of the Foundation possible and for giving hope to thousands of New Zealanders affected by neurological disorders.

Ian Robertson
Neurological Foundation of New Zealand