"When we started in 1996 we had no idea that ECF would reach into every part of Essex and grow into the significant organisation that it is today. We owe a great debt to the many people who have supported ECF over the years, their commitment and passion for our work and all it has achieved has been extraordinary and Essex is stronger for it."Ian Marks CBE DL, ECF President
Community Foundations are relatively young in the UK but have a long tradition in the USA where there are 780 foundations collectively managing $74 billion in permanent assets and distributing annual grants totalling $5.3 billion. The first ever community foundation was founded in Cleveland, USA by banker and lawyer Frederick Goff in 1914. Goff wanted to ensure the long-term success of his community and his vision was to pool the charitable resources of Cleveland's philanthropists, living and dead, into a single, great, and permanent endowment for the betterment of the city. To this day The Cleveland Foundation remains one of the world’s largest foundations with $2.17 billion in endowment and has distributed $98 million in charitable grants since its inception.
In 1975 the UK saw its first community foundation established in Wiltshire. From this starting point this philanthropic phenomenon spread like wildfire and there are now 46 community foundations across England, Wales and Scotland which all operate under the umbrella organisation UK Community Foundations (UKCF).
Ian Marks, and his brother John were the third generation to run the family sweet-making business, Trebor. When the 4th generation declared that they would not retain the business, the company was sold to Cadburys in 1989. As an established Essex family, Ian believed that a community foundation would go some way towards meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in the county, whose problems were often hidden in a county perceived as part of the prosperous South East. He and Angela believed that a community foundation could provide the means through which people who wanted to help could channel their donations effectively, while focusing attention on the problems facing the voluntary sector. It could also foster a stronger sense of community spirit.
After researching the community support in Essex for such a venture and after commissioning a feasibility study, which both proved positive, the wheels were set in motion. Essex Community Foundation was launched in April 1996. Ian became Chairman and Laura Warren was appointed Chief Executive (retired May 2011).
Essex has a population of over 1.4 million. It is a diverse county encompassing Britain’s longest coastline and oldest recorded town, a newly-designated city, picturesque villages, acres of rural land and bustling urban areas. The county’s economy is also breath taking in its variety, ranging from the country’s most deprived community, in West Clacton to areas of affluence. There are 12 Districts under the jurisdiction of Essex County Council and two unitary authorities, Southend and Thurrock.