Our giving stories

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Fighting for good in Northland

Helen and Richard Alspach are Northlanders from the west side of Kaipara and have farmed in the region for 50 years. Richard was a local Kaipara District Councillor for four terms and Deputy Mayor for two. The couple have one son, who lives in Australia, and have been considering their legacy as they plan for the future.

As well as looking after family, both feel a sense of care for the community where they have built their lives. They say that those who live there will know that the region is used to looking after its own, “You don’t have too much trouble plugging into that local enthusiasm to support local, people who live here want to give back here. Community foundations give the opportunity for people to do that, to support a place rather than a particular cause,” says Richard.

Both see education as an important pathway for self-determination. They have set up a Northern Wairoa Literacy Fund with Northland Community Foundation to benefit their local community, which will be activated through a gift in their will. Their aim is that their fund will help to address disparities of opportunity they see in the region. “Books and literacy are so very important,” says Helen. “If you can get one on one teaching for kids while they are young you can really change their future. So many are missing out on the wonder of books”.

The Alspach’s fund will be invested and grown into an ongoing source of funding to support educational programmes for children. “It’s a fund for any organisation in the area - be it a school, marae or church group - which want to start a programme to help kids to learn to read and get enjoyment out of books,” says Richard.

The couple are also leaving a gift in their will to the Northern Wairoa Fund, to be invested for the wider benefit of the community. “This area is overrepresented in every negative social index that exists. Rural regions need to look after their own needs, nobody else is going to do it for them, and they should be given every opportunity to fight back. Our legacy gifts are part of that fight”.

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Loren Anderson and Joel Zimmerman, Taranaki

Loren Anderson and Joel Zimmerman have deep roots in Taranaki. Loren’s family has been farming the region since the 1800s and the Zimmermans arrived in the 1800s from Poland, settling in Inglewood.

They say Taranaki has been good to them. They have chosen to support the Taranaki Foundation because it will provide intergenerational support for the region they love.

“It’s always been a long-term objective of ours to give something back to the community. However, what that something looked like, we weren’t really sure what that would be,” says Joel.

The couple found the right vehicle in Taranaki Foundation. “Anyone can make a donation – or leave a gift in their will – for a local cause that’s important to them. The donation is invested, grown and gifted back to the community each year by the Foundation,” Loren explains.

They had discussed setting up a legacy fund with Taranaki Foundation through a gift in their will, and the real catalyst for activating this was when their son Abel was born in September 2023. The pair met with their lawyer to update their wills and he suggested Taranaki Foundation as a vehicle to achieve their charitable objectives.

“Giving through Taranaki Foundation is just common sense for us, really. It meets our long-term objective of giving back to the community in a lasting way,” says Joel.

Read the full story of Loren and Joel and their giving on the Taranaki Foundation website >>

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Edna Brown, Tauranga

When Edna passed away 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 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 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.

Read the full story about the first remarkable gift to the NZ Community Foundations' network - read Edna's story here >>

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Sir Mark Dunajtschik, Wellington

"I wanted to reinvest in the city that made me; the gift needs to have staying power."

From his professional beginnings as a tool maker, to becoming a heavy hitter in Wellington’s property development industry, Sir Mark’s working style has always been hands on. His approach to philanthropy is similar. “Sometimes ‘philanthropy’ is seen as writing a cheque and walking away, but I’ve never been like that,” says Sir Mark.

This drive to give back was seeded in Sir Mark’s childhood. A native German born in the former Yugoslavia, Sir Mark spent three of his formative years imprisoned in a WWII concentration camp under Marshall Tito’s rule of Yugoslavia, before settling in Germany as a refugee. Finding work as a tool maker, Sir Mark stayed in accommodation that also housed people with disabilities while he completed his apprenticeship. It was the combination of these two life-changing experiences that brought Sir Mark’s attention to those less fortunate and set the scene for a lifetime of philanthropy.

Leaving a gift in his will is always something that Sir Mark always planned on doing, saying “my partner Dorothy and I have had our bit in life, so now we want to make sure our good fortune is passed on to others”.

Sir Mark had a specific vision in mind and wanted to make sure he found the perfect giving vehicle to execute his giving goals. His number one criteria was that his estate had to stay in the Greater Wellington region. “Wellington has been my home for nearly 60 years. This place gave me my first leg-up in life, and I wanted to reinvest in the city that made me,” says Sir Mark. “The gift needs to have staying power and continue to give back for years after I’ve kicked the bucket.”

As the Greater Wellington region’s Community Foundation, Sir Mark found that Nikau Foundation’s not-for-profit structure was the perfect fit for his giving goals. “Nikau is focused on local, and I trust them implicitly to give in the way I want.” Sir Mark’s gift to Wellington will give back in perpetuity, providing practical support to people living with disability.

Read Sir Mark and Dorothy's story of generosity on the Nikau Foundation website >>

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Smith Family, Auckland

"We have enjoyed learning through the process, working out how to give well and how to target our donations. Our bequests help to cement our commitment to giving well.”

Pip Smith is really proud when she talks about her family’s philanthropy, having evolved over many years, and shaped by the experiences of herself, her husband Jimmy and daughters Chelsea and Kady.

Describing themselves as ‘an average family’, Pip says, “We are certainly not wealthy, but we have always made it an important part of our family life to see the struggles of other families and to consider helping where we can.”

“We really like the endowment model of Community Foundations, where the money can build up, and we can gift from the income, maintaining the body of the fund. We still meet each year as a family, to work out who we are going to give the money to,” says Jimmy.

Pip and Jimmy have also structured their wills, so that a portion of their estate will be donated to the Fund, supercharging its growth for the future.

“Over the years we’ve learned more about how to give and being more strategic with our giving with the guidance of Auckland Foundation and the like-minded families and donors we have connected with. We have enjoyed learning through the process, working out how to give well and how to target our donations. Our bequests help to cement our commitment to giving well.”

Read more about The Smith Family Fund >>

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Peter and Nellie McNab, Owaka

“This opportunity would not have come about without Clutha Foundation. We are really honoured to be able to remember our son in a meaningful way, and to give back to the community we have been a part of all of our lives. It's very rewarding."

In early 2018 disaster struck the McNab Family of Owaka when their youngest son, Baden, drowned in a diving accident. Baden's father, Peter, said that the tragedy happened early in the new year when, possibly not following correct diving protocol while out diving with two mates, he blacked out in shallow water.

A very tough time for the family followed and Peter and wife Nellie knew that they wanted to do something meaningful to honour Baden’s life. They had heard about the idea of endowment giving through Clutha Foundation, took a look at options and decided that a fund in his honour, giving back to the things he loved, would be a meaningful way to remember Baden and leave a fitting legacy for his life.

“Baden loved hunting and fishing and diving. So we thought about doing safety courses in Owaka, as many young people never really think about doing proper training, they just learn from their mates.. and sometimes important safety bases aren’t covered,” said Peter.

“It also means doing something that might mean someone else doesn’t have to go through what we have.”

The Baden McNab Fund at Clutha Foundation has been set up to fund courses for local people to learn advanced snorkelling safety. The Fund will be invested by the Foundation and continue to pay out the interest to run these courses, each and every year, in perpetuity.

Read the full story about the Baden McNab Fund >>>

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Gavin and Karen Larsen, Nelson

“It’s a really warm feeling to know that we can affect change to causes that are dear to us, even after we have gone.”

Gavin and Karen Larsen* moved to Mapua, in the beautiful Tasman region, in 2017 after spending the majority of their lives in Wellington.

“We were so warmly welcomed here, and we already feel a real sense of belonging. Both Karen and I thought it would be meaningful to be able to give something back to the local community for the long-term.”

As well as giving now to an endowment fund managed by Top of the South Community Foundation, they decided to also leave a gift in their will, as a percentage of their estate, which will be invested in perpetuity.

Eventually, the 'Gavin and Karen Larsen Fund' will give back to the community causes that have been dear to their hearts – like Big Brothers and Big Sisters - forever.

Karen says, “We certainly plan on being around for many years yet! But it’s the right time to think about supporting our community and what our legacy will be. It’s a really warm feeling to know that we can affect change to causes that are dear to us, even after we have gone.”

Gavin and Karen have discussed with their three adult children their plans. “They were thrilled with what we are doing, and in due course, hopefully many years from now, they’ll be able to be part of, and recognise, their mum and dad’s legacy. We hope it’s something that they can also be proud of for many years to come."

*Gavin is a NZ Cricket selector and he and Karen are currently based in the UK.

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Ray and Lis Sharp, Opotiki

"We thought about what our life was all about and that it would be a whole lot more meaningful if we could leave something to the community."

Ray and Lis Sharp have lived most of their lives around Opotiki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, where they first worked in accountancy, farmed sheep and cattle and, in later years, established and managed kiwifruit orchards.

Their four children grew up around the area and they feel a sense of responsibility and care for the district where they have built their businesses, which they see as intergenerational. The family plans to continue building opportunities, employing local people and giving back to the local community for the long-term.

Ray and Lis have chosen to leave a gift in their will of 10% of their estate to the local community, to be invested with Eastern Bay Community Foundation, with the income flowing back to local community causes, forever.

Ray says, “Our success has a lot more meaning and purpose if we can share our good fortune”. Ray and Lis have spoken to their four children about the gift and are pleased that they support their decision. “Our children are all on board, they think it’s a great thing we are doing.”

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Bunny Mortimer, Waikato

“Mum always said you don't live forever and you can't take it with you. Our entire family is so proud of her generosity.”

Bunny and John Mortimer had nine children, and were proud Hamiltonians and dedicated environmentalists. They were founding donors of a young Momentum Waikato Community Foundation, believing from the outset in their mission to build a new and permanent endowment fund for the Waikato region.

In 2015 they entrusted their Taitua Arboretum endowment fund to be cared for by Momentum Waikato, and to support the local arboretum they had created over many years, forever.

These two local legends have both now passed away - John in 2018 aged 94 and Bunny in 2021, at the age of 97.

However, this didn't stop their generosity to their beloved community, as the opening of Bunny’s Will revealed a new act of giving - she had left a gift in her Will to be invested with Momentum Waikato Community Foundation’s general fund, to support the greatest needs of the region into the future.

Daughter Prue King says that she and her siblings are very happy that there was an extra beneficiary in their mother’s Will – their beloved community. “Mum always said you don't live forever and you can't take it with you. Our entire family is so proud of her generosity.”

Read the full story of Bunny and John Mortimer’s generosity >>

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Maud Rankin, Kāpiti

“It was so reassuring to find that a Community Foundation enabled us to give exactly in the way that we wanted to give, without the big fees.”

Maud says that, while she and her husband regularly support a wide range of causes, they have chosen a few ‘special ones’ to support in perpetuity through a gift in their will.

She says however that it wasn’t easy to discover how they could give in a way in which they wanted, avoiding 'the big fees'. It was their Financial Advisor who suggested that they take a look at their local Community Foundation, which as a not-for profit charges very low fees and enables personalised giving for the long-term.

Maud says that she and her husband had wanted to plan everything in advance and it now feels like a big weight has been lifted off her mind, “We now have things in order exactly how we want them.”

She adds that altruism is extremely rewarding. “It’s very warming. It gives real comfort to know that our wealth will go long-term to the causes which are close to our heart.”

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Marisha (Max) Koh, Wellington

“I like the way that endowment giving through Nikau Foundation is a more strategic way to give, and will benefit my beloved chosen causes forever.”

As a home owner Max Koh says that she wants to plan for the future and has made a will, including gifting her estate to Wellington’s Nikau Foundation to benefit her favourite causes, Cats Protection Wellington and Wellington Women’s Refuge, for the long-term.

She likes the idea that giving through Nikau Foundation enables her to give in exactly the way she wishes. “I like the idea of an endowment fund where the giving will go on forever. It is a much better way to give to my causes for the long-term through Nikau Foundation, rather than giving a sum of money directly to the charities to be spent.”

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Bruce Carter, Taranaki

"I really like the idea of a personal endowment fund that is invested and will go on giving; for me, it is the best way to give to my chosen causes for the long-term.”

Taranaki's Bruce Carter is planning for the future, including what to do with his estate upon his eventual passing. He has been researching various avenues to find a fulfilling way to leave a lasting legacy, particularly for his local community.

He had heard about Taranaki Foundation and really liked the idea that the local Community Foundation would offer a way to safeguard his assets for the future, and ensure that he could give back to his beloved community in a strategic and meaningful way.

Bruce says that the foundation investing his funds for the future, and awarding the income as grants, is a smart way to go about it. “I don’t have to worry about the day-to-day management of giving. I really like the idea of a personal endowment fund that is invested and will go on giving; for me, it is the best way to give to my chosen causes for the long-term.”

See how Bruce Carter's fund can gift and grow here >>

Marnie Anstis

Marnie Anstis, Eastern Bay of Plenty

"The Community Foundation has a safe, secure and long-lasting structure."

Marnie Anstis has been farming her whole life. As a young child, she often helped her father assist at lambing time. She married a dairy farmer and soon learned to milk their herd singlehanded and later, together with husband Peter, they began a horticultural enterprise of kiwifruit, which now covers over 40 hectares.

In retirement Marnie became aware of the opportunities presented by their local Community Foundation. “Anyone can make a donation (or leave a gift in their will) for a cause that’s dear to their heart - even to smaller organisations that truly add value and richness to the fabric of one’s local community. The donation is invested, and it is the interest it accrues that is paid out each year – forever.”

“I made the decision in 2019 to set up an endowment fund with the Eastern Bay Community Foundation. My specific criteria are to equip a child or adult with essential reading and comprehension skills, and to restore and enhance our natural environment. Those two objectives are where I want to make a difference and the Community Foundation has a safe, secure, and long-lasting structure to be able to achieve this.”

The Foundation has taken on board Marnie’s vision for her fund and annual distributions go to the areas of her choice. Alongside this, Marnie also allows the Foundation's trustees to use their discretion to make grants to other urgent needs within the community.

Read more about Marnie Anstis and hear her interviewed in our rural giving stories series >>

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Merle Cooney, Ashburton

"By choosing to donate to my passion through Advance Ashburton Community Foundation my donation will continue to make a difference to the Ashburton District well past my lifetime.”

Local teacher Merle Cooney wanted to make a difference to improving the literacy of local primary school children in and around the Ashburton district. So, in 2013, Merle made a donation to Advance Ashburton Community Foundation and asked them to find the most effective way to deliver on her wishes.

Advance Ashburton consulted with the team at the Ashburton Learning Centre and the BOOST child literacy project was developed.

The programme has grown from strength to strength and this year is now available in 20 schools in the Ashburton District, reaching 200 children with the help of 60 volunteers.

"Having been trained as a teacher, I have a passion to see children succeed. I feel a real sense of pride seeing the difference being made through children attending the BOOST programme. By choosing to donate to my passion through Advance Ashburton Community Foundation my donation will continue to make a difference to the Ashburton District well past my lifetime,” Merle said.

Read about Merle Cooney in our newsletter >>

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Barbara Blake, Wellington

“Giving through my local Community Foundation relieves the burden of how to make the best choice of which cause to support. I’m confident that my gift goes to where the greatest need is.”

Barbara Blake has set up The Blake Fund through Wellington’s Nikau Foundation to support organisations that contribute to the health and well-being of young people, with an emphasis on young women (15-25), Māori, Pacific Island, migrants and lesbian/gay communities.

“As a mother, I know that teenagers can be a bit tricky and can sometimes seem hard to reach. However I also know that with some perseverance, guidance and a firm push in the right direction at critical moments, young people will flourish and exceed all our expectations."

The Blake Fund will generate upwards of $20,000 in grants per annum, in perpetuity, for Wellington youth charities.

Barbara approached Nikau Foundation for assistance when she was struggling with a decision on which community groups to support. She was confident in starting her fund with Nikau Foundation because of the Foundation’s extensive knowledge of Wellington and its unique needs.

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Heather Shepherd and Nick Fletcher, Tauranga

"We think long-term, sustainable giving is such a smart model.”

When schoolteachers Heather Shepherd and Nick Fletcher returned to Tauranga after 15 years of working and travelling overseas, things had changed.

“There seemed to be more social issues”, says Heather.

Seeing need in their own back yard, Heather and Nick decided they wanted to contribute to their local community. But choosing which organisation to support was not an easy task.

“In the past we had given haphazardly”, says Nick. Heather had read about the Acorn Foundation in the paper and after finding out more they were very impressed. They set up an endowment fund and changed their wills to leave a percentage of their estate to their community through Acorn Foundation.

“We firmly believe in their model of investing the donations and locally allocating the income year after year”, says Heather. “We think long-term, sustainable giving is such a smart model.”

“Some donors choose particular issues or organisations to support through Acorn. For us the Acorn Foundation distributes our funds where they see a need.” says Nick. “It makes giving much easier as it takes the decision-making away from us.”

For Nick, leaving a gift in their will was a 'no-brainer', “you don’t need any money when you pass away.” The process, he says was very straightforward, explaining, “we just went to the lawyer and told him what we wanted to do.”

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Andrea Barry, Hawke's Bay

“ ‘Live Here, Give Here’ is a statement that really resonates with us. We are making a legacy here in the Hawke’s Bay that will last forever.”

For some time Andrea Barry had been looking at ways that her family could get involved and give something back to support their community.

“Our local Community Foundation runs a well thought-out and proven business model where the grantee organisations are chosen by a panel of trusted advisers with the community knowledge to know who, what and where the greatest needs are. We know that our donation makes a difference.”

“I like the model of giving where the gift benefits many and the legacy can keep growing through the generations. We can choose to keep adding annually to our donation or take a break … regardless the donation keeps giving.”

Andrea also likes that she is able to target specific causes with personal meaning, “Whether it is within education, youth, sport, or a specific geographical location, I can choose the cause which benefits from our gift.”

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Bob and Alan Johnston, Ashburton

“Advance Ashburton Community Foundation is all about advancing Ashburton; we want to see our Community Foundation be successful for our district for the long-term.”

Brothers Bob and Alan Johnston grew up on the family farm on the outskirts of Ashburton in mid-Canterbury. Theirs was a sheep farming business, and they eventually sold the farm when it converted to dairy around 2008, when they went into semi-retirement.

Around that time Advance Ashburton Community Foundation was being established. Bob and Alan really liked the concept of a Community Foundation, where their gifts would be invested, grown and give back to their community forever.

The brothers decided to give in three ways through Advance Ashburton: through scholarships for promising young medical students, direct funding to current community needs and, eventually, through a gift in their wills.

Both Alan and Bob say that they feel very confident that they are leaving their legacy in the right place.

Read more about Bob and Alan Johnston and hear them interviewed in our rural giving stories series >>

Shirley Potter

Shirley Potter, Turangi

“A gift in my Will was so simple and easy – an email to my lawyer and one to Geyser Community Foundation – done!”

Shirley Potter loves where she lives and has made a gift in her will to benefit the Tongariro Memorial Fund managed by Geyser Community Foundation.

It’s a cause which is dear to her heart. Shirley is employed as a Wetland Ranger for Project Tongariro for a few hours each week and the rest of the week she generously volunteers her time.

“Leaving a gift in my will to Project Tongariro means that the fantastic work that this largely voluntary organisation does in this beautiful part of the country will continue on long into the future.”

In the meantime, Shirley says she has plenty of pest animals and plants to deal to for a good number of years yet!


John Larsen, Gisborne

“Giving to Sunrise Foundation is all about sustainability, it will return to the community forever.”

Local business man John Larsen is well known for his sense of humour and generous nature. In his early years in Gisborne John worked all around the district with his mobile sawmilling business.

John’s generous commitment to the community has seen him support a wide variety of local causes. He attended the launch of Sunrise Foundation, where Sir Stephen Tindall introduced the fledgling organisation and the idea behind the invested endowment fund model it operates.

John says he “picked up on the value of it immediately”, the model appealing to him as he knows that donations to Sunrise are a way to give forever.

“I know the value of money, you can’t just give, give and give into a black hole. That will fritter your money away and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Giving to Sunrise Foundation is all about sustainability, it will return to the community forever.”

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Vicki and John Haylock, Taranaki

“What we love about our local Community Foundation is that our giving can reflect us and our interests and, as a not-for-profit, it comes without the big fees.”

When Vicki and John Haylock’s beloved uncle, Dr. Basil Clarke, passed away and they received an inheritance, they decided to use some of it to honour his memory.

They set up the Dr. BF Clarke Fund through Taranaki Foundation, which will make grants to forever benefit health, wellbeing and education projects for Taranaki people.

Vicki and John also decided to make Dr. Clarke’s fund a family affair, and will leave 10% of their own estate as a gift in their wills, which will add to the fund and its impact.

Vicki says, “Taranaki has been good to us. We both grew up under the mountain and have raised our family here; we really want to give back to this community."

"Our children are really supportive, and I hope it becomes an intergenerational fund, one that they are really proud of, as well."

“Community Foundations are a wonderful way to leave a long-lasting and flexible gift for our community, which can be used to respond to local needs as they change over time."

Gareth Foster

Gareth Foster, Northland

Giving makes me feel good, it’s great to give something back to the community I have lived in and loved for my whole life.”

Gareth Foster’s entire life has resided in Northland, and he has a number of local causes which are close to his heart.

Gareth is a male bass singer, and has performed for many years, including with the Whangarei Repertory Society and the Whangarei Theatre Company. He has always loved sport, particularly athletics and swimming, and he has seen the opportunities that investment in youth can bring to young talent. Gareth also has a love for education, which his mother instilled in him as a school teacher.

In writing his will, Gareth has naturally chosen to look after family and friends first, and has decided to leave the residual of his estate to benefit these causes that mean the most to him: namely opera, sports and education.

Gareth’s residual gift will be invested with Northland Community Foundation, with the income benefitting these causes of his choice forever, providing scholarships to up-and-coming young talent in his name.

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Stacey Scott, Timaru

“The beauty of giving while you are living is that you are able to see the benefits of your contribution.”

Stacey Scott likes the idea of supporting her community and providing an example of giving and generosity for her four children. She allocates a small sum weekly to go to her own fund, the Scott Family Endowment Fund, managed by Aoraki Foundation in South Canterbury. Stacey has also made a gift of 10% of her estate to be left to the Fund when she leaves this world.

Stacey likes the idea that her contributions are invested and will be channeled to community groups who need it most. She also gets great joy from the idea that her gifts will be invested and will continue to support her community forever.

“The beauty of giving while you are living is that you’re able to see the benefits of your contribution.” Stacey’s advice to others is to figure out what they’re passionate about and focus on that. “It might be a cause that has touched you personally or is important to your family. And it doesn’t have to be a lot of either money or time because every little bit helps. Giving through your local Community Foundation is easy and is a richly rewarding experience.”

Top tips for leaving a charitable gift in your will, by the New Zealand Law Society >>

"When people leave a legacy through their local Community Foundation we often hear how fulfilling it is for them, personally. What strikes me is that this decision can be so changemaking, not just for communities, but often for the generous people who decide to do it."

Eleanor Eleanor Cater, Community Foundations of NZ