History

70 Years Strong!

From an “idea” that founder Harrison M. Sayre nurtured over his lifetime, inviting others to participate in The Columbus Foundation’s formation, a premiere foundation has been created to help people from all walks of life build a better community.

1943 — The Foundation is officially established December 29, 1943 with funding from the Alfred L. Willson Foundation. Harrison M. Sayre acts as unpaid director, working from his home for the first 25 years.

1944 — The first unsolicited gift is a $25 contribution from Olga Anna Jones, writer, teacher, and Columbus’ first councilwoman.

1945 — This marks the Foundation’s first grantmaking year, with grants totaling $2,000 awarded to Children’s Hospital, YWCA, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, and the Columbus Philharmonic Association. H. Russell Culp, a typesetter for American Education Press, establishes the first planned gift. When he dies in 1960, his $500 bequest is realized as a gift to the Columbus Public Library.

1947 — The War Chest is the first charitable organization to place real estate or endowment funds with the Foundation.

1948 — Frederick B. Hill, who manufactured hula hoops, establishes the first donor advised fund, allowing donors to suggest grants to charities anywhere in the United States.

1957 — Assets top the $1 million mark with Robert W. Stevenson’s bequest of more than $350,000.

1969 — Richard H. Oman becomes the Foundation’s second director and opens the first Foundation office in downtown Columbus.

1970 — Hattie W. and Robert Lazarus Foundation is the first private foundation to transfer its assets into a fund at The Columbus Foundation.

1972 — For the first time in the Foundation’s history, grants surpass $1 million in a single year.

1974 — A bequest of $7 million from James W. Overstreet establishes the largest unrestricted fund in the Foundation’s history.

1976 — The Columbus Youth Foundation becomes the first supporting foundation of The Columbus Foundation.

1978 — After serving as director for 10 years, Richard H. Oman becomes legal counsel. Joseph C. Imberman becomes the executive director of the Foundation.

1981 — James I. Luck becomes the executive director of the Foundation. Assets hit $50 million.

1982 — The Foundation moves to its new home in Victorian Village, a gift from Battelle Memorial Institute.

1987 — The affiliate Community Foundations Inc., the Foundation’s sister organization, is founded to serve communities beyond central Ohio.

1988 — The former Governor’s Mansion at 1234 E. Broad Street becomes the Foundation’s new home. The purchase is made with gifts from The Wexner Center Foundation, Battelle Memorial Institute, and the Gerlach Foundation.

1997 — Marion businessman, George H. Alber, leaves an unprecedented legacy to The Columbus Foundation–$32 million to benefit charitable groups in his hometown of Marion through the Foundation.

1999 — A $32 million gift is announced from the estate of Dorothy M. Davis to the William H. Davis, Dorothy M. Davis and William C. Davis Foundation, a supporting foundation. It is one of the largest gifts ever reported in the central Ohio community.

2001 — James I. Luck, president since 1981, is named first President Emeritus and Senior Fellow after 20 years of service.

2002 — Douglas F. Kridler becomes president and CEO, and is the fifth leader to take the helm of the Foundation.

2003 — The Foundation celebrates its 60th anniversary. Assets top $741.8 million, gifts total $78.9 million.

2004 — Richard H. Oman retires and concludes more than four decades of service to the Foundation, starting in 1956 and serving in capacities of secretary, director, and legal counsel. The Columbus Foundation is the first community foundation in Ohio to receive “Standards of Excellence” from Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

2005 — Over $1 million in grants are made to national nonprofits and local organizations by Foundation donors to help people whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

2006 — Grants by The Columbus Foundation and 28 supporting foundations reach $72.4 million, including $1 million in scholarship grants for the first time ever. The Columbus Foundation meets 43 standards for its organizational and business practices and is nationally certified by the Council on Foundations.

2007 — Columbus Foundation assets reach $1 billion, making it one of the premiere community foundations in the world. But more importantly, thousands of groups and individuals in central Ohio benefit from the Foundation’s existence.

2008 — Two “Match Day” events, including one to help nonprofits affected by the worsening economy, raised more than $2 million, benefiting 337 nonprofits.

2009 — Safety Net Fund for basic needs helped our most vulnerable residents and the nonprofit organizations by leveraging $1.5 million.

2010 — Silver designation Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) was awarded for the construction of Davis Hall and Duke Hall, as well as the renovation of the Campus of Philanthropy.

2011 — The Big Give leveraged a total of $8,524,928 for 501 central Ohio nonprofits. This extraordinary event surpassed all five previous PowerPhilanthropy giving initiatives combined, making it our largest community giving event ever!

2012  The Foundation’s Bicentennial Grants totaled nearly $1.3 million to support organizations, programs, and services that will positively impact our neighborhoods and residents for years to come.

2013 The Foundation celebrates and honors Jerrie Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world in her 11-year-old Cessna airplane with “Spirit of Columbus” emblazoned on its side. More than just the name of a plane that made history, The Spirit of Columbus is what distinguishes and inspires us today.

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