Download History of the Community Foundation

Chronological History

Early 1900’s

1914: The first community foundation formed in Cleveland, Ohio, by banker and lawyer Frederick H. Goff. Mr. Goff had a vision to pool the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists, living and dead, into a permanent endowment. Community leaders would then forever distribute the interest that the trust’s resources would accrue. And thus, formed the first community foundation.

1919: Within five years of the founding of the Cleveland Foundation, similar foundations sprang up in Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Buffalo.
1921: Over 30 community foundations formed in the United States representing most major cities.

1944: The National Committee of Foundations & Trusts formed with the eventual inclusion of other types of foundations becoming the Council on Foundations.


The Tax Reform Act of 1969 introduced new legislation and regulations that provided community foundations with new tax advantages not afforded to private foundations. Finalized in 1976, the new regulatory advantages spurred foundation growth as communities across the United States began to see the potential benefits in having publicly “owned” permanent endowments.


“How will Washington County remember us?” asked Merle Elliott, a businessman and community leader. This question began the need and interest of creating a community foundation. Mr. Elliott described a community foundation as “a permanent institution that will serve our community for many generations to come.” Describing the benefits of giving to a community foundation verses giving directly to a nonprofit organization, Mr. Elliott said, “In survival mode, it’s easy for an organization to invade its pot of money to pay for operating expenses. But a community foundation commits to the notion that it won’t be invaded…When money comes to us, we’re responsible for it, and it doesn’t get used except for the way intended. If you give to a community foundation, that money will be there.”


Early 90’s: The idea of a community foundation in Washington County gained local commitment and enthusiasm. Michael G. Day, a local elder law attorney with training in estate planning, became a catalyst to help the effort stay on track. Mr. Day began speaking to local groups and clubs as well as meeting privately with key individuals to ask for their support and help.

Mid 90’s: A number of key people clearly understood the benefits of a community foundation and urged Mr. Elliott to move forward. One of these key players was John M. Waltersdorf, president of Tristate Electrical Supply Co., and chairman of the Greater Hagerstown Committee.

1995: Mr. Day filed the articles of incorporation with the state of Maryland, and the Community Foundation of Washington County MD, Inc. became incorporated on November 3, 1995.

1997: Although almost a decade had passed from conception to birth, the Community Foundation finally launched in November 1997 during National Community Foundations Week. Mr. Elliott became the first chairman of the board. The new Foundation had nearly $100,000 in assets at the time and planned to make grants to local nonprofits once its unrestricted endowment reached $500,000. Robert Kenney volunteered much of his time as one of the trustees and then accepted minimal pay as the organization’s first part-time director.

1998: The Foundation granted almost $19,000 to 32 local nonprofit organizations during its first year of operation. The Foundation also had assets of $200,000.


2000: The People’s Choice Awards began as the Foundation’s signature event. This annual event honors Washington County’s volunteer heroes.

2001: The Maryland Community Foundation Association formed and accepted the Community Foundation of Washington County MD as a charter member.

2002: The Foundation distributed $245,981 in grants to local nonprofit organizations—an increase of 80 percent over the previous year—and reached assets of nearly $6 million held in 78 different funds.

2003: The Community Foundation established its Unrestricted Grants with an initial amount of $25,372 awarded to six nonprofit agencies.

2004: The Community Foundation partnered with the John M. Waltersdorf Family and the Richard A. Henson Foundation to provide a $5 million, one-to-one match to funds raised by nonprofit agencies participating in the challenge. The Waltersdorf-Henson Endowment Challenge Campaign would ultimately inject $10 million into the efforts of 16 local nonprofit agencies over the next five years.


  • The Community Foundation celebrated the 10th anniversary of its first grant. In just 10 years, the Foundation had grown from $9,000 in contributions and $0 in grants, to nearly $3 million in contributions and $733,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations. The Foundation also held a total of $13.6 million in invested assets.
  • The Foundation introduced IMPACT, a publication to showcase the success of the Foundation in its first ten years and to highlight the annual report. As a result of its success, IMPACT has become an annual publication released during the month of November.
  • The Community Foundation is recognized as meeting the national standards for U.S. Community Foundations as set forth through the Council on Foundations.

2008: The Mary K. Bowman Historical and Fine Arts Trust dissolved and turned their assets of $1 million over to the Community Foundation to manage. Their advisory board remains intact to continue the granting process.

2009: The Foundation adopted a new investment allocation model and hired Mason Investment Advisory Services to manage the endowment funds.


  • Collaboration with the United Way of Washington County began the creation of the first Strategic Community Impact Plan (SCIP), a long range strategic plan to improve the quality of life in Washington County.
  • The Community Foundation lost a true champion and benefactor when John M. Waltersdorf passed away at the age of 84. In total, Mr. Waltersdorf contributed over $6.5 million and helped establish over 20 funds at the Community Foundation.
  • The Waltersdorf-Henson Endowment Challenge Campaign ended, raising more than $10 million for endowment, which resulted in over $500,000 per year in new operating capital for the 16 participating nonprofit organizations. These annual grants will provide services, programs and scholarships to the nonprofits’ clients and members.
  • The Foundation saw its best single year of investment performance in its 13-year history with assets totaling $18.3 million and grant awards totaling $887,000.

2011: SCIP was finally published and made available to the public. The plan consisted of 44 goals/focus areas.

2013: The Community Foundation hosts the first Washington County Gives, a 24-hour web-based, fundraising promotion for area nonprofits to help raise operating dollars for their organization. This event raised almost $170,000 for the participating nonprofits. The Foundation surpassed $25 million in assets.


  • The Community Foundation begins Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, in conjunction with five other funders, with a goal of mailing one book per month to 1,500 low-income children from birth to five.
  • The new Washington County scholarship website launches as a clearinghouse for students.
  • The second Washington County Gives raises almost $270,000 for 55 nonprofits.


The Community Foundation of Washington County MD now holds more than 260 funds with close to $31 million in assets. It has distributed more than $15 million in grants and scholarships.

In the United States, community foundations serve tens of thousands of donors, administer more than $31 billion in charitable funds, and address the core concerns of nearly 750 communities and regions.