The Wilberforce Foundation was established to support faith-based organisations who are reaching out to communities and making a difference in the lives of others within New Zealand.
The Foundation was founded by Ian and Wendy Kuperus in 2008 as a vehicle to distribute funds made available from their commercial interests, including Tax Management New Zealand (TMNZ).
The name Wilberforce Foundation was inspired by the example of William Wilberforce (1759–1833) and the Clapham Community that were committed to working together to live out their Christian faith to help improve society.
The Clapham Community came from diverse backgrounds and occupations, and worked together over many decades and generations to achieve significant social change. Their influence was wide and included causes such as the improved treatment of indigenous peoples. The group have also been credited with playing a significant part in the development of Victorian morality, through their writings, their societies, their influence in Parliament and their example in philanthropy and moral campaigns, especially against slavery. In the words of writer Stephen Tomkins, "The ethos of Clapham became the spirit of the age."
William Wilberforce is most notably known for his role (along with the Clapham Community) in the enactment of laws to abolish slavery. In the years leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, most of the 25 members of the British Colonial Office were also Clapham members. Together this group were a powerful force that campaigned for the protection and preservation of Māori society.
The philanthropic activities of the Foundation have grown to include a number of focus areas including:
- Supporting the growth and national development of organisations
- Leadership development
- Organisational capability development
- Social and impact investments
Grant making activity undertaken by Wilberforce includes a mix of direct financial support, capital loans and specialist consulting input and capability support.