Chautauqua Foundation, Inc., is the principal organization responsible for the philanthropic funding of the Chautauqua Institution. In this role it will:

  • Develop and maintain programs, products and vehicles appropriate to the philanthropic needs of the Institution as determined by the Board of Trustees and the Administration.
  • Assure fiduciary care in the investment, custody and administration of funds raised.
  • Disburse funds to the Chautauqua Institution in compliance with the Chautauqua Foundation Articles of Incorporation and the requirements imposed by donors.
  • Develop and maintain a competent and active Board of Directors and other volunteers as appropriate.
  • Develop, maintain and direct a professional staff appropriate to carry out the above responsibilities.

In the discharge of its responsibilities, the Chautauqua Foundation will be guided by the Chautauqua Challenge as adopted by the Board of Trustees. The Foundation will be dedicated to quality and integrity in all of its internal and external relationships. The Foundation will anticipate and accept change while maintaining an understanding and appreciation of the history of the Chautauqua Institution in general and the Foundation in particular.


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.