A Discussion with Steven Moe about Structuring of Trusts Controlled by Religious Entities

Steven MoeIn an exclusive Q&A session with Legalwise Seminars, Steven Moe, Partner, Parry Field, shares some insight into structuring trusts for religious groups, and best practice governance when it comes to trusts and trustees. He will delve further into this topic at the Religion and the Law Roundup event on Friday 12 November.


What do you see as the big issues when setting up a trust for a religious entity?

It is important to help educate the founder about key things to think about but as the religious group may not have experience of this in the session we will look at some top questions that can be raised to help them. It can also be important to consider whether the religious group should control the new initiative or just help get it started.

How does setting up a charitable trust differ from setting up a trust under a religious group?

It comes back to the level of control – a religious group may by mistake end up with an entity that it controls if it has the power to appoint and remove trustees. This could mean it has to consolidate the trusts accounts within its accounts, so it is important to get right.

You talk about ‘maximising impact’ what does this mean in this context?

Often new initiatives are started but not much thought is given to the structure chosen – it is vital to think about which structure will best suit the purpose so that there can then be maximum impact and this comes back to simple questions like funding streams, volunteers, membership and purpose. Getting the right structure is like buying the right type of car to get up the mountain to ski – it’s better to have a 4×4 than a convertible.

How can having the right trust structure reach the broader community? 

Choosing the right structure can help the messages get out most clearly and therefore can help there to be greater impact – it is all about telling the stories well!

Can you provide some examples of best practice governance when it comes to trusts and trustees?

One simple example is diversity – if you look around the room and everyone is the same demographic as you then you probably are lacking diversity of thought. It is harder but in the long term more rewarding to ensure a good mix is sitting at the governance table.

Steven Moe is a Partner at Parry Field Lawyers with a focus on ‘for purpose’ organisations ranging from social enterprises to charities, NFPs and religious groups. He has worked as a lawyer for 20 years including 11 years overseas based in Tokyo, London and Sydney and since 2016 has been based in Christchurch. He is a Director of Christian Savings (more than $160 million in lending to Churches in Aotearoa) and is Chair of Community Finance (impact investing with a social housing focus which has raised $53 million for that). He helps facilitate the legal part of the IOD company director course, writes on purpose and impact for Spinoff, hosts ‘seeds‘ podcast with 260+ interviews of inspiring people from across Aotearoa and wrote the book “Social Enterprises in New Zealand: A Legal Handbook”. 

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