Acorn Foundation achieves self-sufficiency

Acorn Foundation Chair Lesley Jensen and General manager Lori Luke.

Chamber member, the Acorn Foundation, has achieved financial self-sufficiency – just 17 years after it was founded in 2003. With international standards showing community foundations normally achieve financial independence between 20 and 25 years after establishment, the Acorn Foundation well ahead of pace.

Acorn General Manager Lori Luke says, “The hard work done in the early years of the foundation laid the solid base which has made this accomplishment possible.

“Loyal Acorn supporters and donors across the entire Western Bay of Plenty have contributed to the success of our foundation, and our team is truly proud that we have developed an asset that will be of benefit to this region forever.”

The Acorn Foundation is a charitable organisation, and like most charities, the establishment of sustainable income that allow it to focus exclusively on its role in the community, rather than fundraising for its own costs, is key to long term success.

The foundation is fortunate that several donors have allocated a portion of the annual distributions from their fund to support Acorn’s operating costs, which combine with the 1% fee taken annually from its fund (now exceeding $36M) to cover Acorn’s expenses going forward. Reaching this goal means that the foundation will no longer require corporate, trust or direct donor gifts to help cover its operational costs, freeing that money up to assist other worthy organisations in the region.

By harnessing the generosity of people in our region, the Acorn Foundation is building a pool of funds that will allow current and future generations of people in the Western Bay of Plenty to thrive.

“Since Acorn no longer needs assistance from businesses, local trusts, or direct donors’ gifts to cover our expenses, more support can reach other local community organisations,” says Lori. “Local corporates and trusts have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to ensure that the local community foundation could thrive.

“For instance, as a Local Donor Manager in the Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty for The Tindall Foundation for 17 years, we’ve always been given a 10% service fee for managing their donations. Going forward, 100% of Tindall money will go straight into the community, allowing us to provide even more support to groups doing amazing work across the region.”

Over the years, many local businesses and trusts supported Acorn’s work, including BayTrust, Legacy Trust, Craigs Investment Partners, BNZ Partners, and Tabak Business Sales. In addition, dozens of Acorn volunteers, donors and supporters have gifted money to help with administrative expenses since its founding. Craig’s Investment Partner Managing Director Frank Aldridge said how pleasing it is to see the Acorn Foundation going from strength to strength.

“They can be commended on reaching financial self-sufficiency which will allow the foundation to give even more support to local charitable organisations, businesses and trusts.”

On a national basis, The Tindall Foundation has provided more than $1.3M in donations to charities in the Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty between 2003 and June 2020, including nearly $150,000 in service fees for Acorn to act as its Local Donation Manager. Going forward, the Acorn Foundation will be able to pass through all TTF donations to the community, providing even more support to local charitable organisations.

Lesley Jensen, Acorn Foundation Chair, says, “We can’t thank our donors and sponsors enough for their belief in Acorn and their commitment to the success of our community foundation in the Western Bay of Plenty. We will forever appreciate their important support for our development.”

Quick fire Q&A with Lori Luke:

What does financial self-sufficiency mean for those who are donating?

Acorn is fortunate that several of our donors have chosen to allocate a portion of their annual distributions to Acorn’s costs, which combine with the 1% annual fee to cover all of our costs.

For donors who are contributing to the community through Acorn, knowing that we have our financial house in order is very important. Donors can trust that we keep our expenses low, so their generous contributions will reach their chosen organisations without big fees attached. Charities can sometimes get bad press for high executive salaries and unnecessary expenditures, but at Acorn, we are acutely aware of our responsibility to manage our donors’ contributions with extreme care.

Going forwards, what are some ways businesses can become involved with Acorn and what is the benefit for them?

We have businesses of all sizes who are involved with Acorn, whether it’s a corporate fund from NumbersWorksn’Words, or a combined corporate and workplace giving fund from KPMG. Cooney Lees Morgan has been raising money for their fund since 2016 and their staff enjoy selecting recipients each year.

In December 2019, Acorn signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Craigs Investment Partners to manage their corporate and Workplace Giving programmes across the country into the 19 areas in New Zealand where Craigs has an office. In the past six months, we have distributed corporate Christmas donations, money raised through employee fundraising for rescue helicopters, and we will soon distribute their regular Workplace Giving donations which are matched by Craigs corporate office.

The Acorn team recently helped ASB Tauranga pass through a donation to Good Neighbour, and we are busy working with other organisations to set up programmes that will provide a real community connection for management and staff.

Tell us about your relationship with Craigs and how has it been so successful? 

We have had amazing support from Craigs over the years, which has been absolutely critical for our success. They have sponsored Acorn’s operations over 15 years and additionally support the national Community Foundations New Zealand umbrella organisation, where I serve on the Board. CFNZ helps promote the good work that community foundations do across the country by partnering with Craigs to highlight generous donors during Wills Month in September.

In addition, Craigs has been managing the Acorn Fund in conjunction with our Investment Advisory Committees since 2003. Through 2019, our fund has averaged an 8.8% return over that entire period.

Principal partners