Why First Foundation

Make an Impact >

Schools and Students




People-powered impact

Lee and Penny Stevens show the power of relationships and community.

Philanthropists, Lee and Penny Stevens show how much of a ripple effect their generosity creates – especially when combined with others in the First Foundation community. They operate under a banner of ‘service to others’, and this philosophy underlies everything they do.

Lee and Penny Stevens

This couple has always been generous with time, resources and experience. They’ve supported numerous causes, programmes and organisations through The Rua and Carrie Stevens Charitable Trust, a charitable organisation established in honour of Lee’s mother.

“Our trust has been going for over 50 years, and at its heart is strong relationships with people,” says Lee.

Connecting with First Foundation

Lee and Penny were inspired by the vision of First Foundation. As they got to know about the people and programme, they were compelled to offer support. “When Kirk Sargent became CEO of First Foundation, we learned a bit more about the programme. And we were impressed!”

“The ripple effect of First Foundation scholars is what excites us. First Foundation will be sustained by its scholars who will eventually become mentors and supporters themselves. They’ll develop lead businesses that can become corporate partners. They’ll also have the support of experienced philanthropists like ourselves to help guide and mentor them.”

Lee says that the model means the level of support required is not daunting – it’s enough that many people each play a small part. 

Joining with each other means it’s not an overwhelming commitment for anyone. In this way, we’re bringing the idea of a village supporting a new generation – this is what will strengthen our shared future.

The programme builds long-term relationships and trust

Lee says the integrity and professionalism with which the programme is managed is outstanding.

“We see our relationship with First Foundation as a very natural synergy. This is in tune with the natural ethos of our Trust. Supporting an educational programme with a long-term focus is highly effective. It drives the ongoing development of our scholars to the completion of their degrees.”

“When you have a long-term working relationship, you can build deep trust. This means it’s easier to talk if something is not working and everyone can come together to find solutions. That’s where people like us can give the best value too. We can bring our experience to make sure we’re funding the greatest need rather than focusing on things that fit certain criteria,” says Lee.

Lee was impressed with First Foundation’s response throughout the uncertainty of 2021. He says, “The number of new scholars First Foundation supported during the pandemic, with all its financial challenges, was nothing short of inspirational.


Lee and Penny Stevens at home


We all reap the rewards

“We looked at how we could collaborate with others so together we could take on an additional scholar. We recognise that the programme is just so life-changing; it’s a special thing.”

And Lee encourages others to consider stepping up – he says the rewards are shared.

“There’s great joy in connecting with a scholar. You become acutely aware of the many challenges these young people have to face in order to achieve their goals. It’s a great opportunity for people in the community to help others to excel in their lives”

Lee and Penny Stevens have responded to a call to help deserving young people reach their full potential. And they’ve found like-minded others within the First Foundation community. They’d join us in welcoming anyone else who’d like to make a difference.

“We see that what we invest as a society in this generation’s education is what we’ll get back when this generation become our leaders, our government and our society of the future.”

“We see that what we invest as a society in this generation’s education is what we’ll get back when this generation become our leaders, our government
and our society of the future.”