An Idea Whose Time Had Come
A wise person once said: “How fine it would be,” if an individual who was “about to make a will could go to a permanently established organization…and say, ‘Here is a large sum of money. I want to leave it to be used for the good of the community, but I have no way of knowing what will be the greatest need 50 years from now. Therefore, I place it in your hands to determine what should be done.’” That person was Frederick Harris Goff, lawyer, banker and founder of the Cleveland Foundation.
First of eight surveys of pressing urban problems commissioned
The surveys, which document problems and recommend solutions, establish a precedent for community foundations to lead as well as support.
Frederick H. Goff
National Intellectual Treasure
During the first few decades of the 20th century, Frederick Harris Goff was one of Cleveland’s most prominent and beloved citizens. He was also a national intellectual treasure but, sadly, his name is not well known among most 21st-century Americans or even among Clevelanders. This lack of recognition is unfortunate because Goff, like his better-known contemporaries Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, changed philanthropy forever, here and around the world. As the American philosopher William James has stated, “The great use of a life is to spend it for something that outlives it.” As more and more citizens across the globe adopt and adapt Goff’s concept of pooling their charitable assets to create a permanent vehicle for addressing pressing local needs, his humanitarian legacy burns ever brighter. For this reason Goff’s life and career merit reconsideration here.
The World’s First Permanent but Flexible “Community Savings Account”
The Cleveland Foundation was an entirely new concept in philanthropy. Captains of business and industry such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie had conceived of creating private foundations to channel their immense wealth into philanthropic activities. Goff envisioned an alternative mechanism for ensuring the honorable and productive use of monies accumulated over and above one’s immediate needs. Endowing such a foundation was a simple and affordable way for individuals of modest to comfortable means to leave a charitable legacy.
The Cleveland Foundation is established on January 2
Cleveland Trust bank directors approve a Resolution and Declaration of Trust appointing the bank as the foundation’s sole trustee.
The Community Foundation Movement
How Goff’s Idea Has Enriched the World’s Social Capital
Cleveland banker Fred Goff did not rest on his laurels once his idea for a community trust had become a reality. He worked hard to spread the concept as broadly as possible. Even before the Cleveland Foundation was incorporated on January 2, 1914, the publicity department of Goff’s bank sent out a national press release describing the foundation’s structure, purpose and expectations of financial support. Before the month was out, articles announcing the birth of a new kind of philanthropy had appeared in the New York Times, Saturday Evening Post and two progressive journals, Outlook and The Survey. Goff also authored an article about the Cleveland Foundation for the January 1914 issue of Trust Companies magazine.
“To Uncover the Causes of Poverty and Crime and Point Out the Cure”
Fred Goff obeyed the dictum of Cleveland civic architecture designer Daniel Burnham to “make no little plans” as they have “no magic to stir men’s blood.” Less than six weeks after the Cleveland Foundation’s creation, Goff publicly announced that the community trust would undertake as its first act “a great social and economic survey of Cleveland, to uncover the causes of poverty and crime and point out the cure.” The research project, which Goff expected would take two years to complete, would be a way for the foundation, which had no endowment as yet, to make an immediate contribution—by increasing public awareness of the problems facing a community in the throes of rapid urbanization. It would also be an indispensable blueprint to guide grantmaking at that future date when income would be available for distribution.
First designated grant awarded
As per the donor’s wishes, the recipient is the Cleveland Protestant Orphans Asylum (now Beech Brook).
First discretionary grants awarded
In-kind services provided to important civic committees
The loan of its director and offices expands the foundation’s useful roles.
The Cleveland Foundation’s endowment ranks as fourth largest, trailing New York, Chicago and Boston.
Four additional local banks become foundation trustees
The institution of a multiple trusteeship ensures a broader pool of potential donors, enhancing the foundation’s ability to weather the Depression.
First logo unveiled
The logo, a medallion engraved with a frontiersman carrying surveyor’s tools, bears the phrase, “Pioneer Community Trust.”
The Combined Fund is created to enable small gifts to the endowment
This innovative vehicle offers individuals of modest means a simple, affordable way to leave a charitable legacy.
Contributions received from a record-breaking 325 individuals
The endowment now comprises 50 named funds
Education, social services and health are the chief beneficiaries.
The bequest of $1.7 million from oil heiress Bertha Backus Hale would be equivalent to $12 million today.
A course-changing philanthropic demonstration project is launched with foundation support
The Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation is created specifically to stimulate fresh approaches to solving Cleveland’s increasingly grave socioeconomic problems.
During the foundation’s first 50 years, more than 1,600 generous donors have swelled the size of the endowment to $84 million.
First significant bequest for arts and culture received
Mechanical engineer and industrialist George C. Gordon and his wife Marion are the donors.
Board expanded from five to 11 to accommodate GCAF trustees
The Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation merges with the Cleveland Foundation
The union reinvigorates the older foundation’s grantmaking, swelling the philanthropic resources available locally for proactive problem-solving.
The grant advances the prospects that the federation of Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University will create a great research university.
Cultural affairs becomes a full-fledged program area
Foundation offices relocated to the Hanna Building on Playhouse Square
The move is a symbolic gesture of support for the ongoing redevelopment of Cleveland’s theater district.
Economic development becomes a full-fledged program area
Donor-advised funds established
The foundation formalizes its commitment to serving living donors.
“Special Initiatives” launched to revitalize schools, neighborhoods and the lakefront
Sustained, multimillion-dollar commitments are now seen as central to the foundation’s ability to make a difference.
Sustained grantmaking begins in the field of the environment
Spending policy revised to increase income available for grantmaking
The new formula for calculating available income is based on the endowment’s performance over time.
Rolling grant reviews replace quarterly decision-making
More timely review procedures speed the disbursement of funds to grantees.
Board expanded from 11 to 15 directors
A larger board gives the foundation the benefit of a greater range of perspectives.
Board responsibilities refocused on identification of programmatic priorities
Responsive grantmaking team formed to review mounting requests
Senior program officers promoted to program directors
The new title reflects new responsibilities for leading strategic initiatives identified by the board.
Assets recover from the impact of the Great Recession
The foundation’s $1.88 billion endowment propels its ranking as one of the top five largest community trusts in America.
First $10 million grant, the largest to date
To commemorate its upcoming centenary, the foundation makes a historic gift in support of Case Western Reserve University’s new medical school.
Documenting the Movement’s Global Impact