Rural giving stories - Bob and Alan Johnston

Bob and alan johnston

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

The brothers remain living on the farm and today, even in their 70’s, still have a hand in at the busy times of the year. “We still get called on to shift cows from time to time”, says Alan.

Upon the sale of their farm, Bob and Alan found themselves in a new financial position with some discretionary income and, around this time, Advance Ashburton Community Foundation was in its early years, having been established by founder Neil Sinclair.

They 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 will.

They have a scholarship fund which pays income every year to medical students in the district. “We started with one scholarship per year and now there are six, each paying around $3,000 a year. The great thing about it is that we know a lot of these families and it’s wonderful to see how it’s helping young people with big aspirations”, says Bob.

The brothers also get involved in other community initiatives, such as funding training equipment for Ashburton Hospital or other current needs such as Kai for Kids. Bob and Alan are appreciative of guidance Advance Ashburton brings, helping them make informed giving decisions. “We thought food for kids wouldn’t be needed in Ashburton, but we are all hearing real stories of how it is needed today,” says Bob. “We are happy to give to that, when you hear about and can see the real need”.

And as for making the decision to leave a gift in their will, to be safeguarded by Advance Ashburton, both Alan and Bob feel very confident that they are leaving their legacy in the right place.

Alan says “we have been very fortunate that we are in the position that we are and able to give back. As long as Advance Ashburton remains being so well run our money will always be put to good use in mid-Canterbury”.

Bob adds, “It was put to us early that we could not only leave a bequest but also do something in our lifetime. And we get real pleasure from seeing what our money is achieving today, so we put it to others – ‘why don’t you do something to see your money working while you are still here’? We have found it very fulfilling to give in this way”.

“Our old Dad used to say ‘If you are in a position to help, you should’. That’s how we’ve always felt about this. The Foundation is so well organised and has always brought in the right people to look after the money, it’s a great organisation and we are happy to be a part of it”.

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