Nearly 100 years ago, in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio, the community foundation concept was born, giving rise to a new philanthropy, a new way of participating in community, and a new vision for the future. Today, the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation is one of more than 700 community foundations across the United States that invite everyday people with a vision and a passion for community to create something together: For good. Forever. These organizations collectively manage more than $48 billion in assets and make grants of approximately $4.5 billion a year to improve life in their communities. During the past 100 years, this philanthropic model has spread beyond U.S. borders, with approximately 1,700 community foundations operating worldwide.
Next year, the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation will commemorate our own 19h anniversary by recognizing the donors, volunteers and nonprofit organizations that make life better in our region. We plan to celebrate the centennial of the community foundation movement all year long. With the support of our Partners in Philanthropy, we will expand our Mini-Grants for Teachers program into all three counties, award more than 50 scholarships to area students, and establish our first Visionary Fund to support the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation in the next century.
Cleveland lawyer and banker Frederick H. Geoff established the first community foundation in 1914. His vision was to pool the charitable resources of community members, people of all means, into a single, great and permanent endowment for the benefit of all. Within five years, community foundations had been established in Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Minneapolis, Buffalo and New York. And, 100 years later, all 10 of these organizations are stronger than ever, still doing great work providing needed support to charities in their regions.
Community foundations are designed to build endowment funds that help create personal legacies and benefit the community forever. When you contribute to the endowment managed by the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation, your gift is invested and earnings from your fund are used to make grants that address community needs. Your gift and all future earnings provide a permanent source of community capital, doing good work today and in the future.
Since being established in 1995, the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $4 million. The organization has assets of $16 million and holds endowments for more than 160 component funds which support everything from CCAP Loaves and Fishes to the Eastern Panhandle Free Clinic; scholarships to grants for teachers; youth and recreation programs to senior services; and environmental causes to local food and farm programs.
Served by a volunteer board of directors from Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan counties, and staffed by three full-time professionals, the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation has become one of the leading grant-making organizations in the region. By adopting policies that guide donor services, investments, grant-making and administration, the organization meets National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. This certification assures that the organization meets the nation’s highest philanthropic standards for operational quality, integrity and accountability.
Community foundations across the country are helping people invest in the future of the communities they care about. Trillions of dollars are expected to transfer from one generation to the next during the next 50 years. The philanthropic opportunity during this transfer has the potential to improve the quality of life—in urban centers and small towns alike—through economic development, education, health, human services, environment, arts and culture. As place-based organizations that focus collective assets for good works, community foundations are helping people of all means give back and make a difference.
— Michael Whalton is the executive director of the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation. He can be reached at mwhalton@EWVCF.org, or at 304-264-0353.
Remember the Community Foundation
A growing number of people are remembering the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation in their estate plans. The great thing about including the community foundation in one’s estate plan is that a donor can support favorite charities, in perpetuity, with a single gift and a few simple instructions. Individuals, couples, and companies interested in learning more about the Legacy Society or in establishing a fund at the community foundation can contact Michael Whalton by email at mwhalton@EWVCF.org or by calling 304-264-0353.