Essex Community Foundation
"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 Founder


What is a Community Foundation?

Community foundations have existed for over 100 years and are now a global, philanthropic movement operating in over 1,800 communities worldwide. Each working to tackle deprivation, disadvantage and to improve the lives of local people.

The first ever community foundation was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914 with the vision 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. Now, USA foundations collectively manage over $74 billion in assets and distribute around $5.3 billion in grants annually. 

In 1975 the UK saw its first community foundation established in Wiltshire. From this starting point, the phenomenon spread and there are now 46 community foundations across England, Wales and Scotland which all operate under the umbrella organisation UK Community Foundations (UKCF).

UK community foundations have grown to manage over £500 million in their combined endowment funds and are working with more than 15,000 donors to represent one of the leading sources of funding for local charitable causes here in the UK. Collectively, the network distributes nearly £100 million every year to support local charities, community organisations and individuals in need.

How Essex Community Foundation started

Ian Marks and his brother John were the third generation to run the family sweet-making business, Trebor. When the fourth generation declared that they would not retain the business, the company was sold to Cadburys in 1989. As an established Essex family, Ian 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 1.7 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.