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Faith-Based Organisations in New Zealand: an Exploration of How Faith Affects Faith-Based Organisations' Relationships with Donors

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posted on 2021-11-12, 00:00 authored by McLoughlin, Jane

Faith-based organisations (FBOs) constitute a significant part of the development industry, yet our knowledge of FBOs and the ways in which they operate, often within secular societies, is limited. This research focuses on one particular aspect of FBOs in New Zealand: that is how FBOs perceive their faith impacts on their donor relationships. The research is undertaken within the context of the call for more empirical studies on FBOs in order to understand what types of FBOs exist, what contexts they appear in, and how they approach development. To this end, I conducted 17 semi-structured interviews with FBOs based in New Zealand over September-October 2010 and critically analysed these interviews for what they revealed about FBOs-donor relationships. The findings of this research are that FBOs are compelled to undertake development work as a religious and moral duty, and that their faith identity sometimes translates into a unique form of development assistance. FBOs have advantages over secular organisations in their ability to mobilise resources from within their faith networks, particularly the ability to secure low cost labour. These networks can be viewed as part of a spiritual economy for FBOs. Some FBOs position their organisations to receive funding from both their spiritual economies and mainstream secular sources. These organisations have established separate development arms within their organisation devoid of any religious reference or content, yet retain a religious arm to promote their faith. Other organisations successfully secure secular donor funding by clearly demonstrating how their faith is incorporated within their development work. The majority of FBOs operate outside the mainstream development industry in New Zealand and are either self-funding or funded through their spiritual economies. My major finding is that FBOs’ donors are not homogeneous groups; they hold a divergence of expectations which change the way FBOs position their development work in relation to their faith.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


McGregor, Andrew