The Chautauqua Foundation, Inc. exists to support the long-term sustainability of Chautauqua Institution with a particular focus on the preservation, the appropriate use, and the growth of endowment funds.

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From 1933 to 1936, the future of Chautauqua Institution was at significant risk. As the United States’ economy entered and remained in a great depression, visitors and gate revenues decreased at Chautauqua. Carrying significant debt from the expansion of program and facilities throughout the 1920’s, Chautauqua faced forfeiture on its loans. Chautauqua entered receivership in December of 1933. Under the leadership of Samuel Hazlett and a number of other leading Chautauquans, the Chautauqua Reorganization Corporation, an independent corporation which sought to acquire all claims against the Institution, undertook an active fund raising effort.

Hazlett’s efforts were ultimately successful and by the end of the 1936 season, the debt had been retired and Chautauqua was released from receivership. Those who had been central to Chautauqua’s recovery agreed in early 1937, to create the Chautauqua Foundation, another separate organization. As opposed to the Reorganization Corporation’s charge to retire debt, the Foundation would seek to build a permanent set of assets that could be used to support the future work of the Institution. In May of 1937, the Foundation was incorporated and in August of that summer, the first annual meeting of the membership was held. The members elected Walter Roberts President.

Accumulation of assets within the Foundation proved difficult initially. The Foundation did not hold $1,000,000 of endowment principal until 1958. It took another thirteen years to reach $2,000,000.

The assets of the Foundation began to grow more rapidly beginning in the 1980’s as Chautauqua undertook a series of comprehensive campaigns which asked for endowment and began to highlight the opportunities of giving through bequests and charitable life income gifts. This series of campaigns, including the most recent Promise Campaign, has resulted in the growth of the endowment to nearly $100 million, comprised of more than 700 endowment funds.