What is a community foundation?
The community foundation movement started in the USA and Canada around the middle of the 20th century and has rapidly spread across the western world. All of them start small and they all start with a spark.
In Vancouver 75 years ago Miss Alice McKay sought the advice of W.J. Van Dusen, a partner in MacMillan-Bloedel, on what to do with the $1,000 she had saved from her secretarial job. She wanted to invest her savings in a way that was both creative and significant for the people of British Columbia. Van Dusen added $1,000 to Miss McKay’s savings and challenged nine other donors to match his gift. Then, with that initial endowment of $11,000, he created Vancouver Foundation.
This modest fund of capital has today grown to more than $1 billion and Vancouver Foundation, among the largest community foundations in North America, works with generous people, charitable organisations and the people of British Columbia in a wide variety of ways. Over time it has grown to become a vitally important feature of the social and cultural landscape of British Columbia.
Time shows us that, when properly organised and carefully run, a community foundation can make a significant contribution to the quality of life in its town, city or region. It can be a very powerful local force for good.
Here in New Zealand our community foundations are emerging from their fledgling beginnings. The Tindall Foundation have been instrumental in assisting New Zealand community foundations off the ground. Currently there are 14 community foundations in New Zealand, from Northland through to Aoraki in the south. It’s a growing movement with currently 5 more in the planning stages.