Momentum Waikato

The Chamber of Commerce has been catching up with each of the winners from the recent Waikato Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, supported by Foster Construction Group, to find out what they did to stand out from the crowd. This week's Winners’ Insight is with Kelvyn Eglinton, CEO at Momentum Waikato, winner of the 2021 Community Contribution and Not for Profit awards.

Winning two categories at the Waikato Business Awards is no easy feat, especially in a year with a record number of entries and an outstanding field of competition. However, Momentum Waikato certainly deserves the accolades in recognition of the incredible work the organisation has done within the Waikato community.
Momentum Waikato is a community foundation, one of 17 throughout the country. Community foundations are typically large endowment organisations built over time through endowments, bequests and donations from individuals who wish to support projects and funds in their community in perpetuity. 
“We’ve been operating since 2015, after being established by the WEL Energy Trust in 2013. They recognised the region needed another avenue to build community wealth and funding outside of WEL Energy Trust and Trust Waikato, given the community's growth and the increase in demand for community funding,” said Kelvyn. 
“An opportunity to develop a regional endowment fund was recognised as our largest and wealthiest demographic – baby boomers – transition into retirement age. Providing avenues for them to redistribute some of that wealth through generosity and bequests gave birth to Momentum Waikato.”
Kelvyn joined Momentum Waikato in 2018 and it has grown substantially since then. Building on WEL Energy Trust’s initial interest-free loan of $10m, the organisation's total investment fund was worth $34m in the last annual report and is on track to reach $45m by the end of the 2022/23 financial year. Momentum Waikato reinvests all the proceeds and growth of the investment fund into projects with tangible, positive outcomes for the Waikato community and distributes investment proceeds to the causes as identified by the donors in each of their respective funds.
“We are focused on creating a more strategic option for giving that is low-cost and ensures the money is going to where it should be, not lost in bureaucracy and fees. Instead of creating a trust, benefactors can create a fund under Momentum where we pay the fees, and they decide where the funding should go, removing the need for officers, compliance and audit reports. We can do it all under one umbrella,” said Kelvyn.

Another thing that separates Momentum Waikato from traditional trusts is its ability to be a direct investor, using the unmarked proceeds from the original $10m from WEL Energy Trust for projects it is passionate about. Momentum Waikato is actively investing in affordable housing, underwrote the new Waikato Regional Theatre, is seeking to initiate a new shared neurological centre here in the Waikato and, in partnership with Wise Group, is developing a wellbeing hub at the former Houchens Retreat in Glenview. Projects like these are creating a transformational difference in the Waikato.

“The Waikato Regional Theatre is a classic example of where there was a gap in the market. We had to ask: do we spend $25m renovating a tired building that performers didn’t want to even perform in? What if we took that $25m and used it as a base to grow even more investment funds for a theatre that will serve the entire Waikato region and grow the arts community and revitalise the CBD. We’re excited that we could choose the latter option as the new theatre will boost and accelerate Hamilton's cultural, social, and economic life and the Waikato region for generations to come,” said Kelvyn. 
It was Momentum’s first time entering the Waikato Business Awards, and it was undoubtedly a success, being named a finalist in three categories and winning two. Kelvyn praised the process for its thoroughness and the quality of the judge's feedback his organisation received.
“It was our first time, and it was an incredible experience. It’s not something you can do within half an hour. It requires internal reflections and honest conversations as to whether our actions are aligned with our vision. The value of the process for us was extremely beneficial, and the feedback gave us valuable insights on how we were performing from an external viewpoint,” said Kelvyn. 
Momentum Waikato’s unique approach to investing as a charitable organisation is one reason for its success at the 2021 Waikato Business Awards. Utilising the blend of talents and experiences in the team allows Momentum to approach its investments through a commercial viewpoint even though the social and community impact is vitally important. Combined with a focus on data-driven investing ensures that every project Momentum is involved in is a transformational one that meets the demands and needs of the community. 
“We believe in impact investing, looking for projects that are actually needed by the community, according to the public information contained in the Waikato Vital Signs reports. We’re innovative and prepared to take a concessionary return to ensure our projects work for both the community and enable us to continue investing in new projects and identifying new funds with new donors,” said Kelvyn.
Kelvyn and the rest of the Momentum Waikato team are incredibly passionate about the Waikato and their part in transforming it into the best region in the country. As someone relatively new to the area, Kelvyn has been blown away by the response to his organisation and the open arms of the Waikato. 
“I’ve worked in the Bay of Plenty and Auckland, but there’s something special about Hamilton. Obviously, we’re very well located strategically, but for me, the defining feature of the Waikato has been the connectedness of the people. It’s a well-networked region with a strong sense of community and a willingness to listen and work with people coming here with new ideas and visions. We’re fortunate to have a strong iwi with vision and families who have grown up in the region and are committed to putting a lot of money, time and effort back into the community. It’s a unique sense of connectedness that you can’t find everywhere. I’m very proud of our work to create a better Waikato for everyone, forever.”


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