The Chautauqua Foundation, Inc. exists to support the Chautauqua Institution through the preservation, the appropriate use, and the growth of endowment funds.


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 CHQ. Carrying significant debt from the expansion of program and facilities throughout the 1920's, CHQ faced forfeiture on its loans. CHQ 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 CHQ was released from receivership. Those who had been central to CHQ'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 throughout the 1980's as CHQ undertook a series of comprehensive campaigns which asked for endowment and began to highlight the opportunities of giving through bequests and charitable life income trusts.

In 1991, the Foundation and Institution agreed that the Foundation would become responsible for all fund raising and the development staff and operations were transferred to the Foundation. In 2001, Thomas M. Becker became the first full-time chief executive officer of the Foundation. Prior to that time, the volunteer chairman of the Board of Directors served as President of the Foundation.



Message from the CEO

geof follansbeeThe Chautauqua Foundation seeks to assure that Chautauqua Institution is capable of delivering in perpetuity at the highest level on the Institution's mission. Thus the Foundation's focus is on developing and prudently investing philanthropic resources that will sustain Chautauqua for all time.

As a multi-faceted center of lifelong learning, Chautauqua Institution provides an increasingly rare forum for the respectful exchange of divergent ideas, beliefs, and political viewpoints among national and international thought leaders and thoughtful citizens who gather across nine weeks each summer on Chautauqua Lake in western New York. Since its founding in 1874, the Institution has provided an unparalleled, intergenerational experience that mixes the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual energies of presenters and patrons alike, who together engage in interfaith discussion, witness the products of Chautauqua's Schools of Fine & Performing arts, take on a bounty of recreational opportunities, and seek out a wide range of literary pursuits.

In 2019, the Chautauqua Foundation's position is strong, our ambitions are great. We welcome the opportunity to engage you in fulfilling Chautauqua's promise as a sustainable, vital, enlivening, and year-round force in our national conversation and the lives of all who are and all who would become Chautauquans.

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Geof Follansbee

CEO, Chautauqua Foundation



school historyChautauqua Foundation, Inc., is the principal organization responsible for the philanthropic funding of the Chautauqua Institution.

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Board of Directors

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Chautauqua Foundation Staff

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The Lewis Miller Circle recognizes members of the NOW Generation whose leadership gifts help sustain the delivery of the entire CHQ experience, and inspire others to join them in similar acts of generosity.

Comprised of individuals who make an annual gift of $250 or more to the Chautauqua Fund, the Lewis Miller Circle provides an immediate impact on innovations to the annual experience at CHQ, supporting the full range of programming for families and patrons of all ages, as well as scholarships for the majority of students enrolled at the Schools of Fine & Performing Arts.

The Lewis Miller Circle’s dedication and financial support are helping build a stronger CHQ...one that will continue to welcome and nourish young professionals, families and artists for generations to come.

Gifts can be made securely online or by calling 716.357.6404. (Please note the Lewis Miller Circle when making your gift!)

Benefits of Membership in the Lewis Miller Circle

  • Invitation to an intimate Lewis Miller Circle reception
  • Special recognition in the annual report on giving
  • Complimentary subscription to PILLARS, a semi-annual publication for community leaders

Lewis Miller

Born in 1829, Lewis Miller was ahead of his times.... An Ohio inventor and industrialist—as well as father-in-law to Thomas Edison, innovator, machinist, later philanthropist, and visionary co-founder of the Chautauqua Movement on the shores of Chautauqua Lake—his legacy endures at Chautauqua Institution, and inspires us to consider the difference one person can make.

PromiseCampaign FinalReportCoverNearly 7,000 contributors—individuals, families, foundations and partners—brought Chautauqua beyond the finish line in the single-largest campaign in the Institution’s history. The original goal of $98.2 million to be raised throughout the six-year Promise Campaign (2011-2016) was exceeded by more than $5 million upon its successful conclusion on December 31, 2016. This is a testament to the generosity of this community and a shared belief in Chautauqua’s Promise.

Click here to learn more about the Promise Campaign’s objectives, community participation and to review the report on giving.


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Those who are eligible for membership of the Chautauqua Foundation corporation have served or currently serve on the Foundation's Board of Directors or the Institution's Board of Trustees as either an officer, director, or a trustee, and anyone who has made gifts to the Foundation subsequent to June 30, 2002, that in the aggregate exceed $1,000, and who has not declined eligibility by a written statement received by the Foundation declining eligibility for membership.

A member's term expires upon receipt by the Foundation of a written resignation as a member, by action of the Board of Director's if a member has attended, in person or by proxy, none of the duly called meetings of the members held within the three successive fiscal years of the Foundation prior to such action, or within the same period, has failed to make any gift to the Foundation.

2020 Annual Membership Meeting

The annual meeting of the members of the corporation will be Saturday, August 22, 2020 at 9:00 am. Members will be notified by mail not less than ten nor more than forty days before the meeting.