Reflections on growth

Reflections on growth

Nicky Wilkins
General Manager
Acorn Foundation
May 9 2018

As I reflect on the growth of the Acorn Foundation, it’s an incredible story to tell.  When I started with Acorn we had $96,000 invested, 12 years later our managed funds are at $21.6 million. In addition we have over $160 million in anticipated funds (or bequests) coming in the future. These are staggering numbers, and all dedicated funds for the benefit of the Western Bay of Plenty. Grown by the people for the people. It’s wonderful stuff.

And we’re not finished yet, the growth of the Acorn Foundation, and Community Foundations, is really starting to snowball in New Zealand. In the future we will have very sizeable assets which will be changemaking in communities across the country.

When I started with the Acorn Foundation in 2006, we really were breaking new ground in New Zealand and having to “beg, borrow and steal” ideas for Community Foundations from overseas. We don’t have to do that today as we have developed models that work well here and we are learning from each other all the time.

Over the years I have worked with quite a number of Community Foundation Trustees and staff and it is very exciting to see these Foundations really thriving today.  There is such a genuine attitude of sharing, support and collaboration in this sector and it has been a blessing for me working with many of the amazing people across New Zealand.

It has also been a huge privilege acting as the Funding Manager for The Tindall Foundation since 2003 and Tindall has been generous in supporting national workshops for Community Foundation trustees and staff.  Over time we realised it was essential to have a national body co-ordinating the fledgling Community Foundations, culminating in CFNZ being established in 2013. I was a Trustee on the inaugural board and also acted as Secretary.  After a few years this became too much work (in addition to my Acorn role) and we were delighted when the Tindall Foundation and Craigs Investment Partners agreed to strategically partner with CFNZ. Their strategic vision enabled us to employ our first national staff member, Eleanor Cater, to help to steer the ship and build philanthropic giving in communities across the country.

I’ve been fortunate to attend two conferences in Canada which played a significant part in the introduction of Vital Signs® research to New Zealand. Vital Signs has been an invaluable tool for Acorn in terms of developing our funding and distribution model and has given us added credibility to the work that we do.

No one gets results on their own and with the Acorn Trustees providing excellent governance and stewardship, Margot McCool has played a vital role in supporting me at the Acorn Foundation. It has been a real delight working with someone who is so passionate about our local community.

There have been many highlights in my 12 years with Community Foundations but the most memorable are the wonderful relationships I have built with many of our donors.  These are people I will genuinely miss when I move on in June.

To everyone involved in the movement of growing Community Foundations and generosity in New Zealand, I send a heartfelt thank you. What a difference we will make to our country as we continue to connect generous people who care with causes that matter – forever.

Acorn Foundation