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Vancouver Foundation has always been a story about how small gifts can inspire great change. In 1943, a woman named Alice MacKay passed away. She had saved $1,000 from her secretarial job and wanted to help homeless women trapped in a cycle of poverty. She donated her gift to a newly established Vancouver Foundation. It was a small gift, compared to the wealth of the titans of BC industry who took notice, but it was the spark that generated almost 75 years of giving in British Columbia.

Local industrialist and philanthropist W.J. VanDusen knew the potential of building a permanent endowment that could benefit many charitable activities. As Director of the Vancouver Welfare Federation (now the United Way of the Lower Mainland) and Chair of its Endowment Committee, he had studied models of community foundations for several years. By 1943, he had overseen the establishment and incorporation of Vancouver Foundation. However, at the time, it was nothing more than a legal entity with virtually no capital.

Since it was founded in 1943, Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with its donors, has distributed more than $1 billion to thousands of community projects and programs.

Inspired by MacKay's generosity, VanDusen added $10,000 to her endowment and encouraged nine friends to match his own gift.

The nine other founding families who were inspired to contribute were:

  • Mrs. William Farrell & Family
  • F. Ronald Graham
  • George Kidd
  • H. R. MacMillan
  • W. H. Malkin
  • C. T. McHattie
  • Chris Spencer
  • A. H. Williamson
  • W. C. Woodward

Vancouver Foundation was formally established by an Act of the Provincial Legislature - the Vancouver Foundation Act - in 1950.