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Shelly Mitchell-Jenkins has been a trustee of the Eastern and Central Community Trust for eight years (including some time as the Chair). We asked Shelly to share her reflections on her time as a trustee and the changes she has observed.

As the clock ticks down on to my finishing date as a trustee of the Eastern and Central Community Trust I realise how quickly the past eight years seem to have gone. How can it be that already? The weeks and years rush by in a flash and it is now time to say goodbye and watch with interest from the side-lines as the Trust continues to refresh our strategy and look to work in different ways. 

There has been quite a shift since my first meeting in 2013 when the trustees were talking about “more than giving”. Trustees had recognised that change was happening in the sector and ECCT would change too. It was understood that we, along with other community trusts and philanthropic funders, could do more than just pass out simple transactional grants in our communities, that our funds could be utilised in different ways to achieve greater impact, that we could work more in a “relational” manner and could listen more to what our community wanted. This set us on a path to refocus strategy, to understand what makes a strong community and to set a funding strategy that had a continuum of funding from transaction to transformational/relational. 

Trustees consulted our communities and were told that there was still a place for simple transactional granting. We understood and embraced the “grassroots” organisations in our wide geographical community and the importance to them of small operating grants. These are an important part of our funding support. Contributions to community facilities has also been a big part of what we do. What I have always understood in funding these though, was that we were not funding buildings but were funding opportunities for people to connect, be active, to belong and to learn. These places are for people to flourish. 

Over eight years I reflect on much change, but I note that one thing has not changed. What has not changed is the passion of the people at the board table and in the sector. While the faces of trustees change each year, and there have been 23 other faces at the table in my tenure, they have all been great community people, diverse in their backgrounds, skills and experience, from all parts of our region, and all have brought these to the Trust willingly and with no personal gain in mind. I am richer for having worked with them. 

There has been great cooperation between the community trusts sector and I have enjoyed several biennial conferences around the country as well as a number of joint CE/Chair sessions. On every occasion I have come away inspired and energised by the people and the work being done. Over this time collaboration with Philanthropy NZ has also developed and the conferences held each other year have also opened my mind to the great work going on both within our country and overseas. 

Looking after the treasure of the funds placed in our care has been a high priority. We now have more than $200m to look after, to invest and grow so we are able to continue funding for generations to come. We cannot have impact in our communities if we do not look after the money. 

Being a community trustee provides a fabulous opportunity to contribute to our community. I have learned so much in eight years. I look forward to seeing how the work of the Trust develops over the next eighteen months as a number of work streams come together. I am particularly excited about the rangatahi project and our youth-led fund as these show the way on a new way of working for the Trust. I wish all trustees much success in their vision to help build strong and sustainable communities.