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100 Years of Giving, 31 and Counting in Maine

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Monday, December 22, 2014   

ELLSWORTH, Maine - America is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first community foundation, begun in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914. Locally, the Maine Community Foundation will be 32 next year. Meredith Jones, president and CEO of the Foundation, says it dates back to a summer resident, Bob Blum, who had been involved with the New York Community Trust in his home state.

"In 1983, he said to a few of his friends who were also summer residents here in Maine, 'Hey, let's see if we can replicate what's going on in New York, right here in Maine,'" she says.

Today, on average, Jones says the foundation takes in about $25 million to $30 million a year in new gifts and gives away about $20 million a year, funding probably 85 percent of the state's nonprofit organizations.

Jones says with $400 million in assets, the foundation has about 1,500 different funds, and about 45 percent of them are donor-advised.

"We have the luxury and benefit of having many part-time residents who look at Maine and say, 'Hey, a little bit goes a long way here in Maine," says Jones. "We want to make investments to ensure that when our grandchildren come to 'summer' here in the state of Maine, they are able to appreciate it as much as we have.'"

Jones, who will be stepping down at the end of next year after seven years at the helm, met earlier this month with President Obama at a White House commemoration of 100 years of community foundations.

Will Heaton, vice president of Network Council on Foundations, says part of the value of such entities lies in their role as conveners, who can identify place-based solutions that meet specific needs within communities.

"Whether that's homelessness, education, health care, the environment, the arts, or early childhood education," he says. "A lot of it is their ability just to kind of recognize what the needs in that particular community are, and find ways to address it."

There are over 750 community foundations in the U.S. The first was born in 1914 when Frederick Goff created The Cleveland Foundation.


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