What started in 1914 with a single philanthropic organization in Cleveland, Ohio, has grown into a global movement of more than 1,800 community foundations improving lives and communities in 63 countries. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation funded its first community foundation in 1950, and has supported the overall field since 1979. Explore key milestones in Mott’s history of strengthening community foundations in the United States and around the world.
Eugene C. Struckhoff, known by many in the field as the “Johnny Appleseed of community foundations,” became the primary consultant for the Council on Foundations/Mott Technical Assistance Program. The program provided one-on-one consulting with Struckhoff and other professionals to help community foundations learn how to develop staff, boards, donors, endowments, grantmaking programs and marketing strategies. From 1982 until 1995, Mott also awarded direct challenge grants for administrative expenses, endowment building, and re-granting. Overall, Mott support for this programming totaled $7.4 million and reached almost 200 community foundations throughout the U.S. Participants noted three elements that were of particular value:
Mott provides the Healthy City Community Foundation in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, with general purposes support of more than $300,000 over 10 years. The community foundation idea rapidly spreads elsewhere in the region.
Mott makes a grant to the Charities Aid Foundation to help Russia establish its first community foundation, which launches two years later as the Togliatti Community Foundation. A series of assistance and challenge grants are made to help support new community foundations and strengthen existing ones, totaling more than $2.5 million. In 2003, Russian community foundations create their own association, the Community Foundation Partnership, which Mott supports today.
Twenty-one community foundations along the Great Lakes shoreline — backed by the Council of Michigan Foundations, the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and Mott — participate in the Great Lakes Community Foundation Collaborative.See Case Study
Within a year, the UThungulu Community Foundation formally launches as South Africa’s first Mott-supported community foundation.See Case Study
The Transatlantic Community Foundation Fellowship Program — co-funded by the German Marshall Fund, the King Baudouin Foundation, and the Mott Foundation, and managed by the German Marshall Fund — supports more than 60 fellowships at 20-plus community foundations in North America and Europe between 1999 and 2006. These three-week fellowships enable community foundation leaders to exchange lessons learned, share best practices, and build new skills with their counterparts in other countries. The Transatlantic Community Foundation Network, launched in 1999 with support from the Mott and Bertelsmann foundations, brought together about 60 community-foundation and support-organization practitioners from 14 countries for shared learning opportunities and to develop information products for the broader community foundation field.
Originally co-funded and managed by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the initiative becomes a program managed by the German Association of Foundations. It provides assistance, training, and peer learning to enhance the work of existing community foundations, help establish new community foundations, and promote the concept and model across the country. As a result, the field grows from 35 community foundations in 2001 to 259 at the start of 2014. Mott supported the initiative between 2001 and 2010.
Established in 2000 as a national community foundation, CFI uses Mott funds to add staff to help meet an endowment challenge grant from Atlantic Philanthropies. The successful endowment campaign results in CFI having permanent assets of more than 19 million euros when the challenge grant program ended in 2006. In addition to raising endowment funds, CFI raises its profile vis-à-vis the government, high-net-worth individuals, financial advisors, and businesses in Ireland. At the start of 2014, CFI’s assets were 34 million euros.
A seminal report results from a Community Foundation Futures research project, which was conducted by Blueprint Research & Design, Inc., and co-funded by the Mott and Ford foundations. The report creates a huge shift in the field, causing many U.S. community foundations to strive for an appropriate balance between a focus on building financial assets and better serving their communities.
Created as an outgrowth of the World Bank Community Foundation Program and supported by the Mott and Ford foundations and the World Bank, this fund tests the efficacy of community foundation development in countries receiving grants, loans or other assistance from the World Bank.See Case Study
As a follow-up to the “On the Brink” report, several funders — community foundations, the Council on Foundations, and the Annie E. Casey, Ford, Lumina, and Mott foundations — support CFLeads as a primary field organization. It identifies strategies that prepare community foundations to better take on challenging issues, pursue cross-sector solutions, engage residents, and marshal the resources needed to improve their communities and provide opportunities for all. In 2008, a 30-member national task force of philanthropic leaders articulates specific practices in the “Framework for Community Leadership by a Community Foundation.”
Comunalia was created to support individual organizational development and to collectively strengthen the community foundation field in Mexico. The network was formally established following a 2008 assessment of the field and an earlier community foundation visioning process funded by the Inter-American, Kellogg, and Mott foundations. In 2012, the three aforementioned foundations joined several Mexican national funders and organizations, including the 16-member Comunalia, in bolstering community foundations in Mexico. Since 2001, Mott has provided almost $2 million to support the development of community foundations in Mexico.
A result of the Cultivating Community Engagement project supported by the Mott and Kellogg foundations, this report challenges community foundations to fulfill their potential for impact. It proposes they reach beyond traditional leaders — policymakers, nonprofit executives, researchers and other funders — to directly engage residents as partners in change.
Mott supports projects marking this occasion and the field’s future development, including an endowed Charles Stewart Mott Foundation Chair on Community Foundations at the Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy; the Cleveland Foundation’s Global Online Community Foundation Atlas; and the edited volume of Here for Good: Community Foundations and the Challenges of the 21st Century by Terry Mazany and David C. Perry (eds).