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The Family Supporting Family Wellbeing: Totara Fund

Totara Fund was started by a family who wanted to support other families in their local community. They've since grown to support family wellbeing all around Tāmaki Makaurau, donating more than $100,000 total in the years since.

Who is behind Totara Fund?

Totara fund was started by an average Auckland family that, for the sake of a name, and the family’s preference for privacy, we shall call the Smiths.

About 20 years ago just before Christmas a friend visited the Smiths. He was sharing that he had lost his job and that it would be a tough Christmas for their family as they would not be able to afford to buy presents that year. The two Smith children, who were aged 7 and 9 at the time, overheard this conversation and were worried for the children of the other family not getting Christmas presents. After the friend had left they offered their pocket money to help.

The parents were touched by their generosity and thought it was a wonderful idea. Pak and Save, Warehouse and BP vouchers were purchased and placed inside a Christmas card captioned “with love from Santa”. The card was secretly delivered into their friend’s letterbox one evening and to this day the family have no knowledge of the origin of the Santa gift, only that they had received a special kindness when they needed it most.

This gesture gave the family such a warm fuzzy feeling they decided to do it all again the next year. This time they searched the local community for a need and were made aware of a young boy whose mother had passed away suddenly. The boy’s Dad could not afford to pay for an after school activity that this boy was doing well at. The Smiths anonymously paid the fees so the boy could continue to attend.

Why Totara?

The name for Totara Fund was chosen by family vote. To Maori, Totara symbolises life and growth. It is also a very durable timber and the name reflects the family's initial vision to assist children and young people to achieve their potential.


How do you grow a fund like this?

As well as annual donations, stalls were set up to sell products at various local markets to raise funds so they could donate more. During the year the family members would research areas where their funding might be of meaningful assistance. Christmas was the time to evaluate the benefits of each and make a decision on where the money would go.


Why Auckland Foundation?

In time the family made the decision to move the funds to a donor advised fund within the Auckland Foundation. This enabled the family to concentrate on building the fund and have it managed at minimal cost. More importantly, it relieved the effort of administration and research that is now undertaken by the team at Auckland Foundation. The family has really embraced the concept of an endowment fund to maximise the donations. This way the investment proceeds can be given away without reducing the growing capital base.

Who do we give the money to?

The initial focus of Totara fund was around welfare of children, however it soon became apparent that this often starts with factors beyond a child’s control. The fund now supports the well-being of families with the overarching belief that if we can assist the parents to navigate their lives successfully, then by default we assist the children. Since being involved with the Auckland Foundation Totara Fund has supported Brainwave Trust, Big Buddy, Te Whakaora Emotional Healing and Family Restoration programmes as well as counselling services at CARE Waitakere to meet the critical need arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.


Totara Fund today

The two young children referred to earlier are now wonderful adults and are committed to the ongoing support of the fund that now has significant momentum. They have learned you don’t need to be wealthy to be a philanthropist.

Totara has donated over $100,000 so far. As a small family fund we encourage donations from other supporters or corporates that can assist us in making the community a better place. These donations are fully tax deductible and a receipt will be provided by Auckland Foundation.


If you wish to donate to Totara fund please click here