by E.H. Letchworth, Autumn, 1939
Even among our most intelligent citizens there is a widespread lack of understanding regarding the Buffalo Foundation , - what it is, what it has accomplished, what it offers for the future. Let me, therefore, try to answer these three questions briefly. The more generally the Buffalo Foundation is understood by Buffalo people, the more our citizens will grow accustomed to use it as a medium for benefitting our community, with large or small gifts, both of which it is fully equipped to administer.
The first community foundation was established in Cleveland, in 1914, by the Cleveland Trust Company. It was of the so-called "single trustee type." That Trust company adopted a resolution declaring that it would accept gifts or bequests in trust, the principal to be invested and reinvested from time to time by its Trust Department like any ordinary trust fund. The income, however, was to be expended for such local charitable, educational, benevolent, social or other public purposes as should be determined by a governing committee of representative citizens, the majority of whom were to be appointed by certain public officials and the minority by the Cleveland Trust Company. Gifts would be accepted when the donor or testator specified the particular purpose for which the income was to be expended, but only upon condition that if and when in the judgment of the Governing Committee conditions had so changed that it was no longer possible or desirable to continue to apply the income to the specified purpose, the Governing Committee could divert the income to such other purpose or object as in its judgment would most fittingly and properly represent the real wishes and desires of the donor, under such changed conditions. The entire plan, with the trust funds received under it, was called the "Cleveland Foundation."
The fundamental principles of the Community Foundation Plan are two:
(1) To secure the integrity of the principal by entrusting the safeguarding and investment of it to a responsible financial institution, skilled in such affairs and with a perpetual existence, and
(2) To provide flexibility in the application of the income to contemporary needs under changing conditions by entrusting its expenditure to the judgment of a continuing committee, controlled by the appointees of public officials, which should always be in touch with present conditions and the current needs of the community.
Such gifts can never be dominated by the "dead hand" of the past. They will always be kept alive and in step with the year by year, day by day, needs of a changing society. This is not possible in the case of ordinary charitable trusts, even with the assistance of the cumbersome 'cy pres' doctrine which enables the courts to remedy some of the more glaring abuses of outmoded and outgrown charitable trusts which the dead hands of past generations are withholding from the usefulness which their creators envisioned.
Such is the theory back of the Community Foundation idea, first conceived and given practical application by Frederick H. Goff, President of the Cleveland Trust Co. in 1914.
In the late summer of 1919, when I was Vice-President and General counsel of the Marine Trust Company of Buffalo, I went to Cleveland at the request of Mr. George F. Rand, Senior, talked with Mr. Goff, examined all the material organizing that Foundation, and came back enthusiastic about the idea. Within a few days - on September 30, 1919, - the Board of Directors of the Marine Trust Company adopted a Resolution and Declaration of Trust creating the Buffalo Foundation. At its inception, therefore, it was, like the Cleveland Foundation, of the single trustee type.
Mr. Rand and all of us were enthusiastic about the possibilities of the new organization for good, and he intended to make a substantial gift to it in his will. However, he was extremely busy at the time, preparing for that last fateful trip to Europe. The will was never drawn, as he was killed in an airplane crash while flying from Paris to London. However, his four children, knowing his intention, made the first gift to the Buffalo Foundation in memory of him and of their mother "The Mr. and Mrs. George F. Rand Memorial Fund" of $150,000 - later increased to $175,000. With this generous donation, received by the Trustee on December 31, 1919 - just 20 days after Mr. Rand's death - the active service of the Buffalo Foundation to our community began.
At that time I was in charge of the Trust Department, and was having regular meetings with the heads of the trust departments of the other banks of the city. At one of these meetings someone - I think it was Lewis G. Harriman - suggested that the other trust companies would be glad to act as trustees for the Buffalo Foundation if the Marine would consent to convert it into a Foundation of the "multiple trustee type," and urged that as a community proposition such a set-up would be more broadly representative and have a stronger appeal. We recognized the force of his statements, and in the spring of 1920 all the trust companies in Erie County adopted identical resolutions reorganizing the Buffalo Foundation and providing for a slightly different structure, which still continues.
"The Governing Committee was enlarged from five to seven. The four public members are appointed by the Mayor, the Surrogate, the Senior Trial Justice of the Supreme Court residing in Erie County, and the United States District Judges for the Western District of New York. The three other members are appointed by the Trustees' Committee, consisting of the Presidents of all the Trust companies which agree to act as trustees."
The first Governing Committee under the new arrangement comprised the following citizens:
William H. Andrews
Jacob G. Joseph
Daniel J. Kenefick and
Jacob F. Schoellkopf,
who were members of the original Committee, and
Frank B. Baird and
Mrs. Stephen M. Clement,
who were added under the new plan.
I was the first Secretary, and have enjoyed watching the continued growth in variety and importance of the services rendered by this Committee, in spite of frequent changes in its membership. At the present time the committee consists of the following:
George F. Rand, Chairman,
appointed by the U.S. District Judges for the Western District of New York
E.H. Letchworth, Vice-Chairman
appointed by the Trustees' Committee
Jacob f. Schoellkopf, Jr.
appointed by the Trustees' Committee
Mrs. Carlton M. Smith
appointed by the Trustees' Committee
Mrs. Anna B. Fox
appointed by the Mayor
William Warren Smith
appointed by the Surrogate
Edwin Lang Miller
appointed by the Senior Supreme Court Justice resident in Erie County.
Reginald B. Taylor is the Secretary,
and the able Executive Secretary, who has been with us since 1920, one month after the opening of the Foundation office, is Sara Kerr.
In June, 1920, as soon as the first income from the Rand Memorial fund was available, the Governing Committee began to translate into action the objectives of the Foundation. First it determined to study the social service activities of the community, learn at first hand what they were, and how they were functioning, and so lay the foundation for determining what new work should be undertaken, and what existing agencies assisted.
By January, 1921, the staff members were convinced that what was most needed in Buffalo was a correlating agency where representatives from all the social service organizations, and their financing groups could come together and discuss their various problems in order to plan together more wisely. As a result, the Buffalo Council of Social Agencies was established. The Foundation furnished its first president and for the first seven years of its life, from 1922 to 1929, the Buffalo Foundation director, Dr. Frances M. Hollingshead, served as Secretary and as Chairman of the Division on Health; the associate director, Miss Sara Kerr, supervised much of the detail, and was a member of several Committees; and office space and clerical service were provided at the expense of the Foundation.
"The Foundation Forum," the official publication of the Buffalo Foundation, was the official organ of the Council for the record of its proceedings and description of its work. Much of the early history of the council will be found in the early issues of the "Forum." Altogether the Foundation donated more than $15,000 worth of services to the Council. This is a very good illustration of the underlying principle on which the Buffalo Foundation seeks to develop new agencies to meet unsatisfied needs, viz., to finance them during their early years, until they have passed the experimental stage and demonstrated that they are worthy of support, and then gradually turn them over to a permanent group to continue them as independent social service agencies, releasing the Foundation funds for further development work.
During the early years of the Foundation, it made a number of surveys or studies to demonstrate how different agencies were functioning, or to determine whether or not certain needs of the community were being adequately served. Since the beginning, 114 of such studies have been completed. These studies are made only at the request of a legitimate authority, such as a city department, Board of Trustees, or some state or federal agency or public official, and many of them have been most valuable and helpful.
The Child Guidance clinic, started by the Foundation in 1925, was the first Clinic of its kind in this city. It was instituted by Dr. Helene Kuhlmann, a psychiatrist, for children of pre-school age, with the help of Mrs. Laurence H. Gardner, as volunteer worker. After five years had demonstrated the value of this service, the work was transferred to the Children's Hospital and combined with the hospital psychiatric clinic to create a guidance service for children up to 16 years of age. The Foundation, however, continued its grant of $12,000 a year for several years, and is still contributing liberally toward the cost of this service, although it is planned gradually to withdraw this support so as to release the income for more experimental work.
One of the most useful accomplishments of the Foundation has been the compilation and publication of a "Directory of Social Welfare and Allied Services for Erie County," first published in 1921 and since that date re-published at intervals, the last issue being in 1938. This was the first effort to gather together in on publication accurate information regarding all of the social service agencies in our community, both public and private. It has been of inestimable value to social workers generally. At the office of the Foundation the information is kept up to the minute and telephone calls are received almost daily requesting information from these files which would otherwise be very difficult to obtain.
The publication of the "Foundation Forum," to which reference has already been made, was another of the outstanding achievements of the Foundation. Since the beginning, 80 numbers of this Forum have been issued, many containing the reports or summaries of studies and surveys made by the Foundation, often with explanatory charts, tabulations and analyses.
The Foundation administers a number of scholarship funds; maintains a reference and lending library of the more important publications concerned with current social welfare services and problems, and collects statistics in some twenty different fields of social service for the national registration system of the national registration system of the Federal Children's Bureau and the Social Security Board.
The income of the Foundation is derived in part from contributions made annually by individual subscribers, but more largely from trust funds from time to time donated or bequeathed to the Foundation. In the nineteen years of its existence from 1920 to 1939, the total income of the Foundation has been $426,153.76, of which $314,991.93 was derived from trust funds, exclusive of the Kleinhans Funds, and $111,161.83 from individual subscriptions.
At the present time, apart from the Kleinhans bequests, which will be referred to subsequently, the Buffalo foundation is administering trust funds aggregating $777,043.74 and its disbursements for the year 1938 aggregated $28,947.00 exclusive of disbursements from the Kleinhans Funds.