It all started with such humble beginnings: one person, with a commitment to community service and the simple idea of starting an organization with a solid source of funds that could provide support to charities throughout our region. The person was Burges Gadsden and the year was 1936, when he founded the Victoria Foundation out of the Sunshine Inn, a soup kitchen he ran on Pandora Avenue.
After being established by way of an Act of the BC Legislature, the Victoria Foundation received its first gift of $20, generously donated by Burges’ mother, Fannie Gadsden. In a letter she enclosed with the donation she wrote her wish that she could “afford one hundred dollars to so fine an undertaking.” Little did either of them know that 85 years later their ingenuity and generosity would still be making such an enormous impact on the community they called home.
This year marks that 85th anniversary, and the Victoria Foundation is taking some time in May, to reflect on its storied past and especially its more recent history, for the past 20 years have been a time of incredible growth and great community impact.
Reflecting on the last 20 years
The growth the Victoria Foundation has seen in the 21st century, notably under the guidance of current CEO Sandra Richardson, has been unprecedented within the organization. In 2001, the Foundation had 59 active funds; by the end of 2020 the figure had grown to 640. Assets at the Foundation have grown from $23.7 million in 2000 to over $351 million today. In 2000, just over $1 million was able to be disbursed as grants. In 2020, the Foundation distributed over $25 million; a growth from a million dollars a year to over $2 million a month.
There have been many factors contributing to the success of the organization, but none greater than the generosity of the community and its trust in the Victoria Foundation. This trust comes in many forms: Hosted Organizations that entrust funds to the Foundation to provide a consistent stream of income to support the wonderful work they do; Individuals and families who establish donor-advised funds to make sure their money is granted to the issues that matter to them most; Legacy donors who turn to the Foundation to ensure their wishes will be met even after they have left us; and many more.
This spirit of generosity was never more evident than in 2020, when the global COVID-19 pandemic began to put such heavy burdens on our local social organizations and the clients they serve. Partnering with the Times Colonist, the Jawl family, CHEK News, and others, the Victoria Foundation launched the Rapid Relief Fund to raise money for local organizations weathering the impact of the pandemic. In just 52 days over $6 million had been raised via over 15,000 donations. This outpouring of support for our local organizations was a much-needed dose of inspiration during a scary and uncertain time.
That spirit of giving has continued with the ongoing support of the Community Action Funds, which give donors in our community the opportunity to give directly to the causes that matter to them the most. Whether it be the arts, health related programs, the environment, social justice or one of the many other cause areas, donors to the Community Action Funds again put their trust in the Victoria Foundation to ensure their gift will be put to the highest and best use.
The next 20 years, and beyond
While the past 20 years have been remarkable, it’s the next 20 years, and beyond, that the Victoria Foundation is now focused on. We’re at a notable crossroads in our society, and the Foundation is determined to be a leader in the work that needs to be done in order to reach what we strive for as a community. To this end, the Victoria Foundation remains firm in its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 interlinked global goals to achieve a more sustainable future for all. The Foundation is also growing in its commitment to equity and diversity, both in our community and within the organization itself, and is mapping the way forward to achieve impact in these crucial areas.
No matter what may come, the Foundation also remains committed to helping all in our community achieve their philanthropic goals, from the person who wants to donate $10 to help the environment, to the organization that wants to strengthen its future through hosted funds, to the individual who wants to leave behind a legacy of giving that will continue to support the community after they’re gone.
For 85 years the Victoria Foundation has been here, connecting people who care with causes that matter, working together to create a vibrant, caring community for all.
The board, staff, and volunteers of the Victoria Foundation thank everyone who has made this possible, and look forward to continuing this shared success long into the future.