Vancouver Foundation celebrates 75 years of philanthropy

It's a big year for the Vancouver Foundation and plans are rolling out to celebrate the organization’s 75th anniversary this spring.

Non-profit organization has distributed more than a billion dollars across the province since 1943

The Vancouver Foundation funds projects ranging from community reports to programs for youth in foster care and cultural initiatives. (Vancouver Foundation)

It's a big year for the Vancouver Foundation and plans are rolling out to celebrate the organization's 75th anniversary this spring.

The community non-profit organization, the largest of its kind in Canada, has distributed more than a billion dollars to thousands of community projects across British Columbia since it was started in 1943.

The Vancouver Foundation has seen some significant changes since then, said president and CEO Kevin McCort, but community support remains its focus.

"It was always about addressing community needs but, for the first many years, [those needs] were defined largely by the donors," he told CBC The Early Edition hostStephen Quinn.

The first donor wanted to help homeless women trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Alice MacKay saved $1,000 from her secretarial job for the cause, a gift that was matched by other philanthropists in the city and inspired the establishment of the foundation.

75 years of giving

Throughout the years, donors continued giving to the foundation with specific goals in mind, including church programs, universities and the local Boys and Girls Club.

"In latter years, donors have set up funds where they give us more latitude — they've said 'Fund arts and culture.' Or 'Fund what you think is most important,' " McCort said.

This marked a key change, he said, because it allowed the foundation to focus on new areas.

"As a community foundation, we talk to communities to understand what matters to them and that's where we start to get some of the more modern concerns." he said.

Those concerns include helping youth transition out of foster care and studying levels of loneliness.

The Vancouver Foundation plans to host hundreds of dinners with other charities across the province to find out  which issues are most pressing.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from The Early Edition.