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Community Foundations Mark 100 Years

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, the Cleveland Foundation. For the past 100 years, community philanthropy has grown through the formation of locally based community foundations, now totaling over 750 such foundations across the United States.

As the Sonora Area Foundation moves closer to its 25th anniversary, the 100 year celebration allows us to stop and reflect on the meaning of community foundations and the impact of our Foundation upon our community.

The Community Foundations Handbook tells us that community foundations are independent, tax-exempt public charities created by and for the people in a local area. With a mix of roles, they act as grant makers, community leaders, donor service providers and fund developers. While no two community foundations are exactly alike, because they are shaped by local traditions and local resources, there are common threads that help to shape all community foundations.

The Cleveland Foundation was started by Frederick Harris Goff, a banker and lawyer who had a vision and turned it into reality. His “Cleveland Plan” was the unified management through a community oriented organization of many charitable trusts. A group of citizens would be entrusted to meet the charitable goals of changing local circumstances.

Our own Frederick Goff was Sonora businessman Irving J. Symons, who had the vision, and Columbia College President Dean Cunningham, who understood the reality based upon his experience with the Humboldt Community Foundation in Northern California. Working together, they established the Sonora Area Foundation to be reflective of that original “Cleveland Plan.”

Today, the Sonora Area Foundation holds over 180 donor funds. Grant making from those funds and from our competitive grant program presently accounts for $1.2 to $1.3 million per year, and is cumulatively $18.5 million since 1990. Grants are awarded in a variety of grant categories – human needs and services, education, arts and culture, health, public/society benefit, environment/animals, science and technology.

It is an honor to be a hub for place-based giving in our community. The Foundation works with many kinds of donors and their charitable interests, whether making a one time gift or establishing a donor fund. We also work with those who wish to leave a legacy through a planned gift, so that their charity may continue into the future.

The future is very much on our mind at the Sonora Area Foundation – remember our slogan “For good. For ever.” Just as we are looking to the future and our 25th year, we plan to be here for at least 100 years, just like the Cleveland Foundation.