In 1914 Frederick Harris Goff (1858-1923), a lawyer and banker, created the Cleveland Foundation, the first community foundation in America and the world. It was a period in Cleveland civic history when new ways to organize and make the city’s charitable efforts more effective were being tried. His idea and leadership made the Cleveland Foundation the first foundation to be run by a community for a community, accessible to all donors whether of modest or wealthy means, true to a published mission but also flexible to change with changing society, secular and nondiscriminatory in regard to religion, culture, race,or any differences. He also advocated the foundation board look at the “Dead Hand” of trust fund instructions that no longer served a viable charitable goal. He wanted the rededication of obsolete trust funds to be done openly by a board responsible to the community.
Within a short time Goff’s new concept was being used to create other community foundations across America. The first Canadian community foundation was formed in 1921. The Great Depression and world wars disrupted the growth but after WWII the concept spread over South America, the United Kingdom, Africa, Australia, and Western Europe. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe joined in the creation of community foundations with some smaller countries using a single community foundation to serve the entire country.
There is no way to know how many community foundations there are in America today because the number compiled includes senior foundations only. No counting of affiliates is made, so it is anyone’s guess at the big total that counts all community foundations. A guess of around 1,500 may not be far off. At the time Goff was serving Cleveland he put into action a world class concept. Hopefully he realized some of this reach before he died.
Goff also created the first living trusts in America. For a man whose work has extended into every American community and a big chunk of the rest of the world, one would expect to find at least one scholarly work on him, but not true. A scan of the web references to Goff shows everyone copying someone else. The freshest source on Goff is http://findagrave.com/ which gives a shot of his grave marker in the Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, plot Section 10. The Cleveland Foundation has a philanthropic service award named in his honor.
Since writing the above I received in the mail a little book by Nathaniel R. Howard, The Trust For All Time: The Story Of The Cleveland Foundation And The Community Trust Movement, the third publication on Goff I have fished out of the backwater of Ohio history, this time with the help of Tess Kindig of Garrison House Books for only $15.95. The book has lots of fresh material on Goff I think you will enjoy. Tess may be able to find a copy for you, so try her at http://www.garrisonhousebooks.com Charles Marlin