“Mentoring is a circuit breaker that can be life changing for young people. Introducing a consistent and positive role model into the lives of struggling 9 to 13-year-olds gives them the hope, confidence and ambition to choose a different path.” – Jenny Horst, Chief Executive, Upside

Upside works with schools to identify young people who are showing signs of hardship or where a difficult homelife is manifesting in troubled behaviour in the classroom. This early window of intervention can make a difference to the rest of their lives.

The charity came about in 2006 through the combined efforts of co-founders John Newman, Bill Grayson and Dave Robertson. The trio carry a sustained belief that showing up for young people, through mentorship, at the early signs of trouble can give them a chance in their life that, so far, may not have had much chance at all.

Since then, over a thousand young people have been personally supported through the programme, which sees them meeting with an assigned volunteer mentor once a week for a year. It has a 90% success rate (those matches who reach 12 months in their journey together), often leading to a long-term bond.

Until 2021, income was predominantly from grants, with some individual donors, making funding uncertain and planning for the future a challenge. The organisation was growing, so achieving more reliable and diversified income was important. Broadening funding sources was a key strategic goal identified by the organisation to ensure sustainable service delivery and growth. Whakatupu Aotearoa Foundation supported Upside to achieve their strategy, resulting in the recruitment of a Fundraising Manager to generate a more sustainable income stream. Rachel Clarke was hired and her skills in fundraising and marketing have changed Upside’s future.

Whakatupu Aotearoa Foundation is a catalytic funder and seeks to support organisations to generate greater impact and more robust operational models. “Upside was keen to develop its income mix to provide a diverse and reliable position for planning. However, getting the funds to build this capacity is always a challenge. Fundraising for activity that is not part of a charities’ core work is hard, but we view this as strategic and a way to support the team on their journey to delivering outstanding results for disadvantaged young people.” says Carl Vink, Chief Executive of the Foundation. “We were able to provide upfront support for their initiative with progress payments during the project to support the milestones being achieved.”

The Upside team had the confidence to push ahead and recruit a fundraising role and develop their approach and strategy. The investment has paid off and they now have a broader and deeper income mix with enhanced relationships and ultimately more sustainable income streams.

For every dollar invested in Upside, $4.70 of social returns are achieved. This is according to ImpactLab, who have quantified the harm that has been avoided and the good created from Upside’s youth mentoring programme.

“Upside is also catalytic in its nature; early intervention in the lives of young people brings hope and opportunity into an otherwise darkening future. We saw a chance to uplift their work through venture philanthropy; to de-risk an investment in skills that could grow their work. It is exactly where we are positioned as a funding partner,” says Carl.

Research shows 84% of young people that Upside is working with have experienced some form of neglect, nearly all are in living in poverty, almost half have experienced violence and 33% were at risk of suicide. Understanding the situation for young people, as well as how Upside is making a difference is another important part of Rachel’s job. “By undertaking research, we can communicate what is happening in the lives of young people and how the tools and experiences we offer can support them in building a brighter future. It helps funders understand that, through investing in us, we can make a real difference together,” says Rachel.

Upside have gone on to share their programme with others, such as Springboard Community Works, who use the Upside Youth Mentoring model in their own work, bringing even more positive options into young lives.

For every dollar invested in Upside, $4.70 of social returns are achieved. This is according to ImpactLab, who have quantified the harm that has been avoided and the good created from Upside’s youth mentoring programme.

By the numbers

As at January 2023


annual volunteer hours


young people reached


our investment