Giving Stories - Steven Smith

 Steven Smith (centre) conducts the band for  Spring Awakening: The Musical  at The Meteor in 2016.

Steven Smith (centre) conducts the band for Spring Awakening: The Musical at The Meteor in 2016.

A stalwart of Hamilton’s vibrant musical theatre scene has targeted his donation for the Waikato Regional Theatre towards its music stands, because he is expecting to see them used by some of the world’s top musicians.

Steven Smith has been involved in over 100 local productions since his debut in the early 1980s, working with Hamilton Operatic, Musicmakers and many Waikato schools.

Excited at the news of the theatre planned for the south end of Hamilton’s main street, he wanted to support a detail that would enable musicians to make the very best use of the new venue, so funded its music stands so they can concentrate on their playing.

“Wherever I perform, the music stands are an important piece of equipment, and they can certainly be shoddy and unreliable, so it is good to have good ones.

“I am looking forward to seeing great musicians from around the world using the stands I’ve funded. It is one of those things that will ensure their experience of the theatre is entirely positive.”

“The auditorium will need a lot of them and professional-standard ones can cost $200 each. The NZSO [New Zealand Symphony Orchestra] has 60 musicians, and operas can have 80, and happily the ‘orchestra pit’ in the new theatre can accommodate that many.”

The Waikato Regional Theatre will be a multi-purpose performing arts centre, able to be set up to host everything from plays and ballet, to kapa haka and rock gigs. Steven is looking forward to it.

“What I really like is that it will be a flexible space without compromise. No matter what configuration it is in, it will deliver good acoustics and sight lines. It will suit whatever art form, it is a very clever design.

“Founders was always a compromise, and I say that having played there a lot. When we put on Miss Saigon in 2010, we handled the helicopter landing scene by getting a forklift to bring in the full-scale chopper model, which was a challenge.

“That sort of big, exciting stage work will be so much easier in the new theatre. I know the logistics involved in big productions well, and it will certainly be able to cope with those giant props and sets.”

He also has no fears about access for trucks in and out of the central city site.

“If Charcoal Blue can design a theatre in Stratford-on-Avon, with its heritage concerns and narrow streets, they can certainly design one for here!”

Despite his decades of involvement in local shows, Steven describes himself as possibly “the most unknown musician in Hamilton”, due to the orchestras in musical theatre often being hidden.

“In the recent production of Les Misérables at Clarence St Theatre, we were out of sight behind the stage. One night, after two-and-a-half hours of hard playing, I encountered some of the audience in the carpark discussing whether the music was recorded or not!”  

Steven’s low profile belies the fact that he has worked on dozens of local shows, from Aloha for Operatic in 1981, through to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang coming up in September at Southwell School. Usually he is simply one of the musicians, but he has also taken on a range of behind-the-scenes roles, from musical director to lighting operator. His own ‘Three Wines Theatre Company’ most recently co-produced Spring Awakening: The Musical at The Meteor in 2016 (pictured below).

His entire family have long been active in musical theatre, orchestras, brass bands and choruses, with both his parents, Colin and the late Barbara Smith, receiving QSMs for their service to music. 

“What I like about musical theatre is that it is a big illusion, a willing suspension of disbelief. I get asked to be involved a lot, but it is a big commitment – Miss Saigon took 18 months.  I have to be passionate about the show to have the energy to do it, it is rewarding but demanding.”

Steven sees hundreds of youngsters involved in music shows and competitions and there are many other performance genres outside his sphere. Even if they don’t land up in performance careers, the skills and experience gained on the stage benefit many aspects of their lives.

“I am supporting the new Waikato Regional Theatre so those kids can see international-standard shows in the same space where they themselves can perform. We will all benefit from them having a place to realise their potential.”

If there is an element or function of the new Waikato Regional Theatre you would like to specifically support with a donation, please contact Momentum Waikato.

Giving Stories - Nancy Caiger

 Nancy Caiger: "An endowment fund is the key to longevity and effectiveness."

Nancy Caiger: "An endowment fund is the key to longevity and effectiveness."

A desire for her and her siblings’ grandchildren to have an equal opportunity to achieve is why Nancy Caiger got involved in an initiative focused on the needs and aspirations of local women and girls.

The Waikato Women’s Fund, which is enabled by the Momentum Waikato Community Foundation, was launched with a gala event at The Meteor in Hamilton in late July. A philanthropist in her own right, Nancy is also a keen member of the Fund’s establishment team.

“I wanted my gifts to provide some leverage, a base that others can build upon in the years ahead.”

Nancy grew up in Singapore and knows what it means to ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’. But her years in New Zealand and Britain have shown her the provision of a ‘social safety net’ is also important.

She sees personal responsibility as critical, but recognises that the options available to people are sometimes set by the economic system and those who profit from human failure.

“I try to balance the two sides. As a society, we have a responsibility to provide a ladder up for those who are willing and able to take it.” 

Nancy was the founding chair of the Hamilton Combined Christian Food Bank Trust set up in 1998 and has been involved in a budgeting advisory service for her church.

“I am now known more for my support for the arts, but I have also worked a lot in the community sector. I have been in the newspaper, standing in front of empty shelves that needed to be filled with food.”

The Waikato Women’s Fund follows the example of the Auckland Foundation’s Women’s Fund. Research shows women donate differently – smaller more frequent giving over longer timespans, with a real interest in those who benefit.

The Waikato has a number of great general funders, but Nancy could see the need for a sustainable support system guided by and targeted at local women.

“We are in no way diminishing the issues that men specifically face. It is in everyone’s interest that the barriers to women reaching their potential are removed.

“I don’t want my young ones, when they achieve, to feel they are ‘stepping over’ men. Or that achieving makes them ‘one of the boys’ and somehow lessens them as women.”

Nancy splits her own financial commitment to the Waikato Women’s Fund, so it can both address immediate issues and build capacity for the future.

“If all you’re doing is giving money to be spent, you’re constantly having to start again. An endowment fund is the key to longevity and effectiveness, so I have committed to helping to build the Women’s Fund for five years, while also giving a separate amount for immediate impact.

“Down the track we want income from investment to be the source of the monies distributed, so our successors can focus on identifying and addressing needs and issues, rather than chasing funds.

“However, there are also priorities for women now, where some funding can make a huge difference. A balance between immediate and longer-term benefit is a model I think people can engage with.”

The Waikato Women’s Fund Launch event was a huge success.

“It was just great to be in a room of women really excited about what we are doing, feeling empowered by the establishment of a group that recognises this need exists.

“Both speakers, Gill Greer [Chief Executive of the National Council of Women of New Zealand], and Dellwyn Stuart [founder of the Auckland Foundation’s Women's Fund] brought attention to hidden facts. We think we’ve come a long way in 125 years, but have to ask, ‘are we there yet?’.”

What does success in five years look like for the Waikato Women’s Fund?

“Having a good strong endowment fund, with its income being the source of distributions. And lots of time and energy going into identifying and addressing needs and issues. 

“Most importantly, in the community, we want to have made an impact on those negative statistics. To see measurable change.

“We want to bring everyone along on the journey, to put across our viewpoint and move forward.”


Waikato Women’s Fund tackles need and builds capacity 


Meeting an urgent need while building resilience and capacity for a brighter future are the goals of the first two grants made by the Waikato’s newest philanthropic enterprise.  

The launch this week of the Waikato Women’s Fund-Te Ira Waahine o Waikato featured the well-received announcement that the Waikato Women's Refuge-Te Whakaruruhau and the Toi Wāhine festival are the recipients of its inaugural contributions.

“We’re beginning as we intend to go on,” says Waikato Women’s Fund establishment group chair Michelle Howie, “these two groups, respectively, embody our concerns and aspirations”.

“This is a new ‘nest egg’ created by Waikato women, for Waikato women.”

Around a hundred people attended the launch of the Waikato Women’s Fund at The Meteor in Hamilton on Wednesday, 31 July. The ‘big reveal’ of the first two grants was met with enthusiastic applause in the packed theatre.

The evening also featured inspiring presentations by Dr Gill Greer, Chief Executive of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, and Dellwyn Stuart, founder of the Auckland Foundation’s Women's Fund.

Gill emphasised that 125 years after New Zealand women secured the right to vote, our society is still a long long way from gender equity – “five things done, fifty-seven to do” as she put it. People today can make good on Aotearoa’s legacy of strong women by not letting up on the push for positive change.

She also pointed to the power of small contributions with a quote from former PM Helen Clark – “meta problems don’t always need meta solutions – small actions together can have a transformative effect”.

Dellwyn focused on the distinct nature of women’s giving and the ripples that come from investing in women.

“Women want to make change, we give when we can relate to a challenge.

“We want to create new solutions, to be entrepreneurial with our philanthropy. We like to connect, to get some intimacy with where our money goes, to know how the story ends.

“When we invest in women, they go out and share the benefit with their families, their neighbours, their whole community. Investing in women creates a fairer society for everyone.”

Michelle says the Waikato Women’s Fund Launch was a huge success.

“A big thanks to the many people who contributed to a remarkable event. We will capture the spark of interest and enthusiasm it has created and sustain it.”

Anyone can donate any amount to the Waikato Women’s Fund via its new website at

Supporters are also encouraged to spread the word by liking and sharing from the Waikato Women’s Fund’s social media pages.

Suggestions for future grant recipients, whether to address immediate needs or to build for the future, are also welcome.

The Waikato Women’s Fund-Te Ira Waahine o Waikato enables local women to align their giving with the needs and aspirations of women and girls across the region. Research shows more and more women are generating and controlling their own wealth, and that it is women who are at the forefront of baby boomer wealth transfer. Yet it is women and girls who are most affected and held back by the social and economic issues impacting our region and country.

Few traditional funders are consciously trying to close this loop or track whether their grants are really benefitting and enabling women and girls. The Waikato Women's Fund connects women's giving capacity with a funding model that targets women and girls. 

 Dr Gill Greer, Chief Executive of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, spoke at the Launch of the Waikato Women's Fund.

Dr Gill Greer, Chief Executive of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, spoke at the Launch of the Waikato Women's Fund.

Street Youth Work update

The Vital Waikato Grant has since enabled Hamilton’s Street Youth Work team to solidify the foundations of the project, which is Zeal’s catalyst for our ability to respond to the needs of young people on the streets of the city. Each Saturday night, the Street Youth Work team offers assistance to any young people that needs it, as well as organising impromptu basketball and touch matches, and even dance battles.