The first remarkable gift

The first remarkable gift

Eleanor Cater
Community Foundations of NZ
August 2 2023


Edna Brown was an unassuming person, who gave a rather remarkable gift. This gift has sparked, what is today, a growing multimillion-dollar network, helping to shape the future of communities in Aotearoa NZ.

When Edna passed away in 2001, she had left specific bequests to various family and friends and had left directions to the executors of her estate 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 areas of her interest.

Thus, in 2003, Edna Brown became the first Acorn Foundation donor and seeded the first personal invested fund to be managed by the NZ 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 it was a very good leap of faith, fast forward to 2023 and Edna’s endowment fund has given out more than the original gift (total grants made to date are $75,839); and the original gift has grown to be $93,252.

We often use Edna Brown’s fund example, as it’s the oldest endowment fund managed by our young network, so we know how it has actually grown and given out over time.


The capital of Edna’s gift has remained intact, it has been safeguarded against inflation and the income is paid out in calculated distributions (typically 4% per annum) to causes which Edna cared about.

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 causes - some multiple times.*

In another 30 years (after 50 years) Edna’s fund is estimated to have a cumulative total of a whopping $344k! If this is what it will look 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, 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 know that your name and gift will never be forgotten, Edna Brown. Thank you for leading the way for Aotearoa NZ, arohanui.



In memory of Edna Brown – 1913-2001

Edna Brown 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.

Edna 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 than her, so more like a sister.


*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 Parkinson’s NZ Charitable Trust, Diabetes NZ Tauranga Branch, Parent to Parent (Coastal Bay of Plenty), The StarJam Charitable Trust, Complex Chronic Illness Support, Recreate NZ.

** To date, Community Foundations across New Zealand have over $240m in managed funds, and more than 650 anticipated bequests, from funds just like Edna Brown’s.


See how your gift can give and grow, just like Edna Brown's, by using our fund calculator >>>

Date Posted: 15 Sep 2021

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