15 Sep 2021

The gift that keeps on giving: celebrating the incredible growth of Acorn’s first donor fund

The gift that keeps on giving: celebrating the incredible growth of Acorn’s first donor fund

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


Edna Brown. It’s a pretty unassuming name and, by all accounts, Edna was an unassuming woman who has given a rather remarkable gift.

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 2021 and Edna’s endowment fund has now given out more than the original gift (total grants made to-date are $67,922) and the capital in the fund has not only stayed intact, but it has also grown by 46% to $97,913.


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 $67,922 to 14 different charities - some multiple times.* 

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?

Margot McCool, Donor Engagement Manager at Acorn Foundation says, “Edna was like the vast majority of Community Foundation donors; ordinary people with big and generous hearts. We are so lucky to live in a country with so many Edna Browns!”

They are, after all, the generous people who, through Community Foundations like Acorn Foundation, are building funds for the future of Aotearoa NZ.

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.

In memory of Edna Brown – 1913-2001

Edna grew up in Rotorua, where she worked in her family’s soft drink factory after school. She was the youngest in a family of ten children, five boys and five girls. As a young woman she loved ballroom dancing, at which she excelled.

She married George Brown and they lived in Wellington, where Edna worked in the hotel industry, including managing the Tin Hut Hotel, near Wellington.

They had no children, but Edna loved animals, especially cats, and when they later started farming near Te Puke she had names for all the farm animals. 

Edna was a very determined lady, and she was always very kind to people who were in need. After her husband died she lived at Omokoroa, then later at Matapihi, and finally in Tauranga. She was very close to a niece who was only 4 years younger, so more like a sister, who also lived in Tauranga.

*Causes Supported by Edna’s fund over 20 years (some multiple times): Te Runanga O Ngai Tamawharuia, Diabetes NZ Tauranga Branch, Blind and Low Vision NZ, CanTeen, Arthritis Foundation of NZ, Alzheimers Society Tauranga, The Auckland District Kidney Society, Bay of Plenty Multiple Sclerosis Society, The Parkinsons NZ Charitable Trust, Diabetes NZ Tauranga Branch, Parent to Parent (Coastal Bay of Plenty), The StarJam Charitable Trust, Complex Chronic Illness Support, Recreate NZ.



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