THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
Joseph F. Sartori, a highly respected Los Angeles banker and civic leader, founded what is now CCF at his Security Trust & Savings Bank on June 1, 1915. Fellow banker, and Cleveland Foundation founder, Frederick H. Goff, introduced him to the idea of a community foundation. The concept was to establish a permanent philanthropic resource that could respond and adapt to the needs of the community over time. Sartori thought it would be a good model for Los Angeles and subsequently formed the Los Angeles Community Foundation (later renamed the California Community Foundation) as a permanent endowment and steward of L.A. philanthropy. Upon his passing in 1946, Sartori left a bequest of $1 million, which remained CCF’s largest unrestricted gift for the next 40 years. Today, the Joseph F. and Margaret R. Sartori Fund at CCF continues to actively support critical needs in Los Angeles, making it one of the longest philanthropic partnerships ever forged in the United States.
THE TYPEWRITER FOUNDATION RESPONDS TO THE NEEDS OF THE TIMES
As the embodiment of L.A.’s generous spirit, CCF continued to actively address the basic needs of the day, including support for numerous orphanages across the county. CCF hired Mary T. Bierce, who became the first full-time staff member as well as the first female foundation executive on the West Coast. She went on to create a public relations campaign that helped boost CCF’s assets to almost $10 million. During this era, the foundation was widely recognized for funding typewriters, desks, dictating machines and other equipment needed for the day-to-day work of nonprofit organizations like the Long Beach Exceptional Children’s Foundation, Jewish Big Brothers, Hollygrove Home for Children and Big Sisters League (now Children’s Institute International).
GROWTH OF IMPACT AND COMMUNITY PROBLEM-SOLVING
Under the leadership of Jack Shakely, CCF began to focus on community and regional programs. This was a period of tremendous growth – from $20 million in assets in 1980 to $530 million in 2000. Much of the new growth came from living donors who chose Donor Advised Funds as an alternative to private foundations. CCF also transitioned from Security Pacific as the sole trustee to become an independent charitable organization. As CCF began to address important social problems more directly, four ambitious programs were launched: the ”Save the Books” campaign to replace books lost in the Los Angeles Central Library fire, the Fund for New Americans to help Southern California immigrants apply for amnesty, the AIDS Project to provide education and care to high-risk groups and the CCF Fellowship for Visual Artists to provide funding and other support for Los Angeles artists, which is still active today.
L.A. COUNTY’S FOUNDATION AS AN AGENT OF CHANGE
In 2004, civil rights attorney and CCF Board Member Antonia Hernández took the helm as CCF’s next president and CEO. Her tenure has been marked by growth in community engagement, grantmaking and assets, including a historic $250 million gift from Los Angeles philanthropist Joan Palevsky. Palevsky’s unrestricted bequest raised CCF’s endowment to more than $1 billion, paving the way for a number of new programs and initiatives to better serve the needs of Los Angeles County’s most vulnerable residents. The last 12 years have set the stage to reaffirm CCF’s commitment to Los Angeles County and enabled the foundation’s evolution from an effective grantmaker to an agent of change – an “activist” foundation that employs a wide array of tools to facilitate community-based solutions and inspire action. CCF’s work has become increasingly connected to the overall vitality of the region, independent of the specific nonprofit or philanthropic sectors.