Giving Back

The Cleveland Foundation Turns 100

The Council on Foundations is meeting in Cleveland this month to honor the centennial of The Cleveland Foundation — the world’s first community foundation.

One hundred years later, The Cleveland Foundation is still going strong — the first community foundation in the world, dedicated to improving the lives of people in the Cleveland area through education, arts, economic-development, and other local programs. Founded in 1914 by banker and lawyer Frederick H. Goff, the organization today boasts a $1.8-billion endowment.

This month, the Council on Foundations honors The Cleveland Foundation for its 100 years of making a difference by holding its 2014 Fall Conference for Community Foundations at the Cleveland Convention Center, drawing around 1,200 attendees. “There are over 750 community foundations across the country,” said Jesse Salazar, the Council’s vice president of communications, “and what they all share is a common interest in supporting specific communities.”

This month’s conference is actually the culmination of the Council’s yearlong celebration of community foundations that has included partnering with the Knight Foundation on a free course for foundations on making high-impact videos, working with the Monitor Institute on a forward-looking research project, and encouraging foundations to share their successes via the weekly #CF100 Stories series. Those stories, said Vince Rodriguez, the Council’s vice president of member experience, diversity, and inclusion, will be featured throughout the conference.

The Council will also be celebrating the 100-year-history of community foundations in 25-year increments, plus the next 100 years — five video maps in total, with a different one projected on the walls at the start of each of the conference’s five plenary sessions. “It’s a look at the impact that community foundations have made, and then the last segment of this video mapping will be a kind of look forward,” said Valerie Sumner, principal with VRS Meetings & Events, which is helping organize the conference. “We’re trying to take all those tenets and all those key marketing and strategy statements that Jesse and the Council have been working on, to bring it to life.”

Each day of the three-day conference will be devoted to a different theme: individual excellence, organizational excellence, and finally, community-philanthropy excellence. “We’re also going to look at the impact that this idea that started in Cleveland has had worldwide,” Rodriguez said. “There are 1,750 community foundations globally.”

To help spotlight them, toward the end of the opening plenary, the Council will unveil the Community Foundation Atlas. “It’s going to start with a little pin, a little light on a world map that starts out in Cleveland,” Rodriguez said, “but then we’ll spread out and we’ll get to see throughout the whole conference the impact that this idea has had worldwide” — leading up to Ignite-style presentations by community-foundation leaders from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and seemingly everywhere else in the world the last day of the conference. Rodriguez said: “It goes beyond just the celebration of The Cleveland Foundation.”

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.