500 Million Thank Yous
It takes a community to build a community foundation.
The concept of community foundations originated in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914. A banker, Frederick Goff, conceived the idea of establishing a “community trust” that would be funded by individuals with money beyond what they needed to cover their own immediate needs. By endowing this type of community-based foundation, people of modest means were given a simple way to leave a charitable legacy for generations to come.
Some 70 years after Cleveland established the nation’s first community foundation, the Community Foundation of Louisville got its start when business leaders came together to do for Louisville what no single individual or business could do on their own. And this month, thanks to the generous citizens in our midst, we have grown to $500 million in assets. In reaching this milestone, we can truly say we are a force for good – built for our community, by our community.
With our donors, over the past 33 years we have distributed more than $780 million in grants to nonprofits, the majority of which benefits our local community. Our charitable influence stretches beyond Louisville through our regional affiliates in Oldham, Shelby and Nelson counties, Wilderness Trace, and the Green River Area and through our supporting organization, the Felix E. Martin Foundation, which has provided $15 million in grants supporting charitable efforts in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.
We have supported the educational dreams of students with more than $17 million in scholarship awards. We have inspired our community to engage in the power of citizen philanthropy through our Give For Good Louisville campaign, raising nearly $14 million for area nonprofits through four 24-hour giving days. And we have provided leadership in this region as one of the founders of the 17-year-old Greater Louisville Project, which leverages data to catalyze civic action, by providing fiscal sponsorship to important projects that result from that work like 55,000 Degrees, and being a founder and sustaining partner of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence that ensures a supported nonprofit community.
While some may think of the Community Foundation as a grantmaker, we go far beyond simply making grants that advance charitable activities. We identify current and emerging issues, channel resources to address communities’ needs and help our regions prepare for the future. And while community foundations are endowed to last in perpetuity, we must remain nimble and innovate to best meet the challenges we face.
For example, our Fund for Louisville, focused on capacity building support for area nonprofits through over $1.2 million in grants to date, has shifted its focus to help nonprofits serving our most distressed neighborhoods because we know we won’t advance as an entire community if part of it is held down by multiple forms of poverty. We created CFL Impact Capital as a new way to deploy charitable funds and have put nearly $2 million to work through a revolving loan fund that fills a gap where this type of funding could help important community projects become a reality. By remaining true to our core principles and adapting along the way in this ever-changing world, we are best able to serve our community.
But, we would not have grown to be the largest charitable foundation in Kentucky and one of the largest community foundations in the country if not for our generous donors who believe in the power of philanthropy to change the world around them and the steady leadership of our board of directors. Over time, more than 120 business and civic leaders have volunteered as careful stewards of the Community Foundation of Louisville. Their dedication and prudence has ensured that we preserve and grow our charitable assets for the long-term benefit – doing the most good today while honoring the responsibility that comes with being a permanent community endowment.
In today’s increasingly global society, it is reasonable to question if there is there still a place for community foundations? The answer is simple. As the boots on the ground in your own backyard, we know that no matter how global our society becomes, we see every day that change starts locally. We have the privilege to partner with donors who love Louisville and our greater community as much as we do and want to see it as a place where people and place thrive.
Our greatest export is the spirit of generosity to create a better world around us. But, there is much work to be done. Won’t you join us as we continue to grow this force for good? For Louisville. Forever.