CONFERENCE OF SOUTHWEST FOUNDATIONS
CONFERENCE OF SOUTHWEST FOUNDATIONS. The Conference of Southwest Foundations traces its origin to 1949, when Dr. Robert L. Sutherland, then director of the Hogg Foundationqv, Mrs. Lemuel Scarbrough of the Scarbrough Foundation, and Mary E. H. Butt of the Butt Foundation learned that each had made a grant in support of the same program at the University of Texas. This caused them to wonder about other foundations in the state and the possible value of bringing them together to share information about their programs. The first meeting, hosted by the Hogg Foundation, Miss Ima Hogg, Mrs. Scarborough, and Mrs. Butt, was held in Austin on April 8, 1949. Donors and trustees of ten Texas foundations attended. Representatives of the Carnegie Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, General Education Board, and Southern Education Foundation presented the program and led the discussions. The meeting was such a success that the group voted to meet the following year; several Houston foundations present offered to host the gathering. The group continued to meet in this informal way for the next eight years. During this period the conference planning, staffing, and operation was essentially a project of the Hogg Foundation, assisted by other foundations with a variety of support. The meetings were called the Conference of Texas Foundations and Trust Funds. Attendance was by invitation, limited to grant-making foundations.
At the time the conference was formed, Texas foundation philanthropy was in its first generation. The foundations were still very closely related to living donors, most of whom were running the foundations themselves with the help of their business or personal office staffs. The funds were, for the most part, modest and often dependent on donations from good business years and favorable investment returns. The donors avoided publicity about their foundations, lest they be swamped with requests for funds far beyond the size of their foundations. The annual conferences were attended by foundation donors and their families, trustees, persons who were considering establishing foundations, bank trust officers, and executives of the few staffed foundations. Because this was the only meeting of its kind, foundation representatives from other parts of the country often attended.
After the group had met for eight years, a plan for formal organization was proposed and adopted at the Eighth Annual Conference, held in Corpus Christi in April 1956. The organization was chartered in the state of Texas as a not-for-profit organization. The name was changed to Conference of Southwest Foundations in order to extend membership to foundations in other states in the region. The conference was incorporated in the state of Texas in October 1975, and a 501(c)(3) exemption was granted by the Internal Revenue Service in January 1976. Although the Conference of Southwest Foundations was the first, and for many years the only, organization of its kind, gradually groups of foundations and grantmakers began to be formed throughout the country in other regions, states, and metropolitan areas. The Council on Foundations has given encouragement and definition to these groups and provided a network structure and annual staff-development opportunities. Formal relationship to the council is maintained through the council's Committee on Regional Associations of Grantmakers, on which the Conference of Southwest Foundations serves.
The conference sponsors two major meetings a year: the annual conference in the fall and the mid-year board and committee meetings in the spring. The annual conference is a two-day educational meeting held in various locations around the region. It offers a full schedule of sessions, workshops, site visits, and other activities. The mid-year board and committee meeting is a two-day working meeting for board and committee members. A seminar or educational session is often included. The conference publishes a quarterly newsletter for members and outstanding papers presented to the annual conferences. At the beginning of 1992 active membership in the Conference stood at 154 member foundations from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. By 1994 the annual meetings were attended by 300 to 400 persons. With the maturation and professionalization of foundations in the Southwest, the composition of the group has changed over the years. Although donors or their families (some in the third generation now) still represent a high percentage of the active participants, about 50 percent of the conference participants are foundation staff. Despite the many changes the years have brought to the field of philanthropy, the basic purpose of the conference remains the same as in the early years "to promote wise foundation administration and to enhance the ability of each member to fulfill its charitable mission."
Ima Hogg Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.