Giving in the 1600s


Statute of Charitable Uses

Statute of Charitable Uses, cornerstone of Anglo-American law of philanthropy and Elizabethan Poor Law and basis of English and American public poor relief, is enacted by Parliament.

Source: American Philanthropy, Robert H. Bremmer, Chicago University Press


Massachusetts Bay Company

The Massachusetts Bay Company's charter created the first American board of thirteen men, chosen for their honesty, wisdom and experience, to manage the colonial government. The charter also specified the times at which the government of the corporation should assemble (at least quarterly) and the number necessary for a quorum and empowered them to make laws and ordinances.

Source: A History of Nonprofit Boards in the United States, Peter Dobkin Hall, BoardSource, 2003


John Winthrop

John Winthrop preaches “A Model of Christian Charity" to Puritans bound for New England. This speech emphasized the obligation of the rich to care for the poor, with the poor being obligated to do the best they could.

Source: Association of Fundraising Professionals


John Eliot & Sir Simonds D'Ewes

John Eliot, "Apostle to the Indians" of New England, writes to Sir Simonds D’Ewes, proposing the founding of a college in the Boston area. "…I beseech you let me be bould to make one motion, for the futheranc of Larning amoung vs: God hath bestowed vpon you a bounty full blessing; now if you should please, to imploy but one mite, of that greate welth which God hath given, to erect a schoole of larning, a colledg among vs; you should doe a most glorious work, acceptable to God and man…"

Source: Jesus College, University of Cambridge


John Harvard, Harvard University

John Harvard (1607-1638) bequeaths library and half of his estate to newly founded school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Source: American Philanthropy, Robert H. Bremmer, Chicago University Press


Ann Radcliffe & Lady Mowlson, Harvard University

Volunteers called it "begging" when Harvard conducted what is believed to be America’s first recorded fund drive. It raised 500 pounds and was thought a "great success." That same year, Harvard creates the first scholarship fund with a gift from Ann Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson.

Source: The Council on Foundations


Henry Dunster, Harvard University

Henry Dunster, who had succeeded to Harvard's presidency, writes his own appeal for funds, a pamphlet entitled New England's First Fruits which, like similar efforts of the period, is directed at wealthy and benevolent Puritans who had remained in England.

Source: Harvard University


Harvard University

Four of the New England colonies recommend that each family contribute a peck of wheat or a shilling in cash to Harvard for the support of students. For a decade or so, the revenues of the "College Corne" were sufficient to support the entire teaching staff of the college, as well as a dozen scholars.

Source: Harvard University


Harvard University

Harvard receives the first gift of real estate from alumni. It was completed by deed or bequest from members of the Class of 1642 and the Class of 1646. Once a cowyard, this small parcel was dubbed the "Fellows' Orchard" after the alumni planted it with apple trees. Widener Library now occupies part of the site.

Source: Harvard University


Scots Charitable Society

Scots Charitable Society, first American "friendly society," founded in Boston, reorganized 1684.

Source: American Philanthropy, Robert H. Bremmer, Chicago University Press