The History of the Elks National Foundation

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We, as members of Chico Lodge #423, are quite familiar with our Major Project “aid to children with disabilities” also known as the Piggy Bank Program. This program is governed by the California-Hawaii Elks Association of which we are a member. However, many members may not be as familiar with the ELKS NATIONAL FOUNDATION, hereafter referred to as ENF.

John F. Malley

The Elks have been dedicated to helping others since the Order was founded in 1868. The idea of an Elks Charitable Trust was first introduced by John F. Malley during a banquet at Meriden, Connecticut, Lodge on February 21, 1927.

His plan called for the creation and maintenance of a permanent charitable and philanthropic fund, fueled completely by voluntary donations. There would be no taxes or levies, direct or indirect.

Brother Malley’s dream became reality the following year when he was serving as Grand Exalted Ruler. At the 1928 annual convention, the Grand Lodge delegates voted to create the Elks National Foundation. The Grand Lodge got the ball rolling with an initial $100,000 grant. Today we boast more than 100,000 active donors and an endowment fund valued at $637 million.

ENF policy states that donations to the endowment fund can never be touched. Only the income earned by this fund can be used to support charitable programs. Capital gains and appreciation are considered principal, not income, and therefore cannot be spent.

The mission of the ENF is to help Elks build stronger communities. We fulfill this pledge by investing in communities where Elks live and work. We help youth develop lifelong skills, send students to college, meet the needs of today’s veterans, support the charitable work of the state Elks associations, and fund projects that improve the quality of life in local Elks communities.

A board of seven trustees, who are all past Grand Exalted Rulers of the Order, governs the ENF, which is located at the Elks national headquarters in the Elks Veterans Memorial building in Chicago. The director, Jim O’Kelley, oversees the administration of the ENF’s day-to-day operations.

Thanks to the ongoing support of our donors, the ENF continues to expand on Brother Malley’s vision, mobilizing Elks across the country into a force for positive change.

Nearly 90 years after Grand Exalted Ruler Malley shared his vision with the Order of Elks, the ENF continues to unite all Elks in service to their communities.

By Charlie Carroll, PDDGER—Lodge Historian