The first remarkable gift

Eleanor Cater
15 September 2021

Edna Brown. It’s a pretty unassuming name and, by all accounts Edna was an unassuming woman who has given a rather remarkable gift, sparking what is today a $600m network.

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 endowment fund ever 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 given out more than the original gift (total grants made to date are $67,922); and the original gift has grown to be $97,913.

We often use Edna Brown’s fund example, as it’s the oldest endowment fund in 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 12 years (after 30 years) Edna’s fund is estimated to have a cumulative total of a whopping $231k! And, after 50 years, the cumulative total is estimated to be close to $400k - six times the original gift!

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?

Sadly, we don’t have much in the way of history around Edna. What we do have, is outlined below.

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 New Zealand, 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 endowment fund over 18 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 $200m in managed funds, with anticipated bequests, from funds just like Edna Brown’s, estimated to be over $400m.

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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