Our History

Why We Exist

A Crisis Creates An Opportunity

In 1982, a storm dropped 25 inches of rain on Santa Cruz County over three days, causing devastating flooding and mudslides. Generous people looking to help were searching for a central organization to send donations to—one that would support the long-term recovery efforts. But, such an organization didn’t yet exist. Community Foundation Santa Cruz County was formed to meet that need.

"The lack of a local resource to which all nonprofits could turn attracted me initially to the idea of establishing a community foundation in Santa Cruz County."

- Gurden Mooser, Founding Trustee, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

People Stepped Up

Forward-thinking local leaders like founding trustee Gurden Mooser, estate planning attorney Ian McPhail, and UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College Founding Trustee Hal Hyde believed in the idea of a community foundation from the start. In the aftermath of destruction, they saw a chance to create a force for good that would live on forever. They shaped the idea into a grantmaking public charity dedicated to improving the lives of Santa Cruz County residents and solving community challenges.

“The founders’ ability to keep their cool and coordinate things during the months after the floods gave people great confidence and legitimized the Community Foundation. People saw the need to capture donations from a variety of sources, centralize it in an organization that understood the community, and then distribute it.” - Diane Cooley

The Legacy Continues

In the Fall of 1983, five gifts ranging from $100 to $10,000 established an endowment as a vehicle of choice for the broadest range of charitable giving. Almost 40 years later, we have evolved from our modest beginnings to become a center for solutions across Santa Cruz County. With over $130M in total assets, we have the resources to help charitable visions get established and grow, improve the effectiveness of the more than 500 local nonprofits we serve, and continue to build on our $90M+ grantmaking history.

Our in-house expertise can help make tax-wise giving work for you and give maximum benefit to the community. Whatever your cause, we’re here to help everyone who loves Santa Cruz County give with peace of mind and make a difference—today, and for many years to come.

“For making a gift that keeps on giving, for an opportunity to give something back to the community that’s given all of us so much, and for responsible management of funds teamed with effective grantmaking, you can’t do better than the Community Foundation.” - Mary and Richard Solari, Founding Donors
Minutes and Attendees at the First Board Meeting

Archival documents from our earliest days help tell our story. Locals' concern for their neighbors' wellbeing in the aftermath of disaster. People rallying behind the belief that a foundation for the community could play a vital role in identifying and supporting critical needs. Civic leaders coming together to design a solution to accomplish something great.

Then, as now, the Foundation believes the charitable dreams we each have can benefit us all.

Learn more about how your generosity can improve Santa Cruz County for generations to come.

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