The world’s first community foundation was established in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1914 by banker and lawyer Frederick H. Goff to “pool the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists, living and dead, into a single, great, and permanent endowment for the betterment of the city… for the mental, moral, and physical improvement of the inhabitants of Cleveland.”
The first UK community foundation was established in Swindon in 1975 and by 1997 there were 22 fully operational community foundations across the UK. Two of these included Community Foundation for Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, and County Durham Community Foundation, both of which were excellent fundraisers and grantmakers.
That same year, the then High Sheriff of Cumbria, John Fryer-Spedding CBE, invited 20 people – from every part of the county and from diverse backgrounds – to serve on a steering group to assess the feasibility of a community foundation for Cumbria. All agreed willingly to serve.
The steering group was inspired by the Queen’s Christmas 1997 broadcast: ‘I pray that we, the more fortunate ones, can unite to lend a helping hand wherever it is needed, and not “pass by on the other side”.’
In order to lend this ‘helping hand’ to the people of Cumbria, they aimed to build a professionally managed endowment fund of £3 million within four years, to analyse the community needs of Cumbria, and to consult with local authorities, voluntary bodies and other community foundations.
Cumbria Community Foundation was launched in 1999 with a founding donation of £1 million from British Nuclear Fuels Limited (now Sellafield Limited) and the support of all seven local authorities within the county.
The devastation caused by foot and mouth disease in 2001, and three serious floods in 2005, 2009 and 2015, led us into new territory. The appeals relating to these disasters were increasingly successful. But it would be wrong to think that the Foundation has prospered solely on the strength of disasters. The Foundation has always aimed to back every corner of the county and every type of eligible need.
There are now over 1,800 community foundations around the world with 46 in the UK alone. A full history of community foundations in the UK can be found here.