In 2023, Acorn celebrated our 20th birthday

In 2023, the Acorn Foundation celebrated its 20th birthday. Since 2003, we have gifted more than $16.5M to the community - all thanks to the generosity of local donors in the Western Bay of Plenty.


As the oldest community foundation in New Zealand, we’ve reached quite a milestone. But thanks to our unique giving model, we know that this is only the beginning of our journey.

Where it all began...

The Acorn Foundation was established back in 2003 by Bill Holland and a group of committed local trustees, after Bill discovered the Community Foundation model in the US. 

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Acorn’s first endowment fund

Acorn Foundation’s first ever endowment fund was gifted by the late Edna Brown in 2003, and has now given back more to the community than her original gift – and the capital in the fund has grown by 46%!

When Edna Brown passed away in 2001, she had left specific bequests to family, friends and charities, with directions to the executors of her Will that they were to divide what remained amongst charities or organisations associated with medical research or treatment. 

Her estate executors were unsure about choosing recipients so decided to put the balance of $67,200 with the fledgling Acorn Foundation, in Edna's name, with distributions tagged to causes close to her heart.

Thus, Edna Brown became the first Acorn Foundation donor in 2003 and seeded the first personal endowment fund in the New Zealand Community Foundations network. 

It was certainly a leap of faith on the part of the executors of Edna’s estate, as Community Foundations were not at all well-known in NZ and the model, at that stage, was unproven here.

It turns out that was a very good leap of faith; fast forward to today and Edna’s endowment fund has now given out more than the original gift (total grants made to-date top $65,000) and the capital in the fund has not only stayed intact, but it has also grown by 46%.

The annual income on Edna’s fund is paid out in calculated distributions (typically 4% per annum) to causes that would meet Edna’s approval. Edna chose to support medical research or treatment causes in the Western Bay of Plenty and, to-date, her fund has given to 14 different charities. 

The magic of the community foundation model is that Edna’s gift is on track to keep growing and giving back forever. In another 12 years (after 30 years) Edna’s gift is projected to grow by more than 200% - for an estimated cumulative total of $231,000! And, after 50 years, the cumulative total is estimated to be close to $400k. If that is what it looks like after 50 years, can we even begin to imagine what ‘forever’ looks like for Edna’s remarkable gift to the Western Bay of Plenty?

There is a saying that we all have three deaths. The first is when you physically die. The second is when you are buried and out of sight. And the third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time. We don’t think your name and gift will ever be forgotten, Edna Brown. 

Thank you for leading the way, arohanui.

The early days of Acorn

Support from The Tindall Foundation and generous local donors helped to cement a solid foundation

The very first endowment fund from Edna Brown was significant, but would not generate enough for the first year's expenses. Each of the Acorn Board of Trustees dipped into their own pockets. They also held a highly successful fundraiser - a media auction where parcels of advertising from all the local media were auctioned off to local businesspeople.

In 2003, The Tindall Foundation appointed Acorn as their Regional Funding Manager, representing a huge endorsement of Acorn and a cash injection to kick-start the distribution process.

Craigs Investment Partners came on board from the beginning, and introduced some of the early donors, notably Colin Toop, who named his fund in honour of his wife and son. His death in February 2006 marked a significant bequest to the Acorn fund. To this day, each year around $50,000 is distributed on behalf of the Colin Toop Fund.

Eva Trowbridge was another early donor, who was a cleaner at the Tauranga hospital for 25 years - proving you did not have to be 'rich and famous' to make a difference through Acorn. Eva established the Eva Trowbridge Scholarship to assist learners to gain a tertiary education, and was delighted to leave a legacy for the future in this way.  

As word spread, Acorn donors began to trickle in. By the end of 2006, the Acorn Foundation had attracted 24 endowment funds and had their first $1 million invested.

The appointment of Nicky Wilkins as Executive Officer, joined in 2008 by Margot McCool as Finance and Distributions Officer, marked a turning point for the Foundation.  By the time Sally Morrison took over from Bill Holland as Acorn Chair in 2011, the fund had over $5.7 million invested, from 133 donor funds.


The Foundation Today

Fast forward to 2023 and the Acorn Foundation has just over $63M in funds under management, more than 400 donors, and has contributed over $16.5M to the community since our inception.

This funding has supported hundreds of charitable organisations that are important to our donors and are vital to our region’s well-being. 

A huge thank you to all of our donors, supporters and volunteers, whose generosity and commitment to our mission has enabled the Acorn Foundation to make this significant contribution to our community.











See all the organisations we’ve supported