OUR History

The Bill Long Foundation is a membership-powered community foundation that gives grants to support projects and activities in Oberlin that address basic human needs or enrich cultural life. Membership in the foundation is open to all. Members elect volunteer trustees who manage all operations and award grants based on the vote of members attending the annual meeting.

A Brief History


James F. “Bill” Long managed the Oberlin Co-op Bookstore for over 30 years, building it from a fledgling enterprise to a financially secure business based on the cooperative principles of open membership, democratic control, and concern for community. In the early 1970s, Bill proposed the Causes Fund as a way to return profits to the community. The Co-op’s annual meeting soon became one of Oberlin’s liveliest events, with members debating proposed causes and reaching agreement with respect and cooperation.


The Co-op established the Bill Long Foundation (BLF) in 1989 after he retired as a way to preserve this tradition of community involvement. Bill was a leader in the Oberlin community, serving on City Council, forging the way in racial integration and fair housing, mentoring students and entrepreneurs, and providing employees with living wages and benefits. He was a tireless advocate for positive social change. He also loved children and shared his model train collection with the community in a display that became a holiday tradition for a generation of Oberlinians.


Today we continue to observe the principles of participatory democracy and local control that Bill championed.


How We Operate


The Bill Long Foundation is a volunteer organization with no paid staff, keeping expenses to a minimum. Our board, elected by the membership at the annual meeting, conducts the business of the organization. The board’s goals are simple: to grow the endowment through fundraising and wise investment, and to find qualified and worthy organizations and activities to receive our grants.


You can become a member of the Bill Long Foundation by making an annual contribution. Your contributions become part of a lasting endowment that benefits the Oberlin community.


Best of all, as a member of BLF you have a voice in how the organization operates. At the annual meeting you will meet representatives of local organizations to hear about the projects they are hoping to fund, and cast YOUR vote. You’ll also hear from the board committees and elect new trustees. It’s a lively evening among friends, old and new, a tradition to look forward to each year.


For those who have left Oberlin, membership in BLF is a way to stay connected to the community and honor the memory of a remarkable man and the contributions he made to this city.


Projects We Fund


Over the years, BLF has funded many organizations in Oberlin, including: Oberlin Community Services, Community Action to Save Strays (CATSS), Credo Music, Firelands Association for the Visual Arts, Neighborhood Alliance/Senior Services, Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra, Girls Electronic Arts Retreat, Oberlin Community Music School, Providing Oberlin with Efficiency Responsibly (POWER), Road to Hope-Margeau House, Oberlin Weekday Community Meals, and the Ruby N. Jones Community Scholarship Fund. A more complete list of organizations throughout our funding history can be found at the bottom of this page.


In addition, the BLF Tool Fund provides mini-grants up to $500 to help Oberlin individuals and groups buy specific tools they need for economic opportunities to save or earn money.


We give priority to organizations serving basic needs, but believe that cultural organizations serve the needs of our community as well. We have replaced broken band instruments, paid for SAT prep, planted gardens, funded energy retrofits, and helped a vital organization survive funding cuts. While many of our grants are small, we can also be a source for seed grants for projects that exceed our typical awards.


Our application process is simple and short. For additional information and the application form, see our website (www.blfoberlin.org). If you need assistance or have questions about how your project fits into our funding guidelines, please contact us at BLFoberlin@gmail.com for help.

The "Stories of Bill" Project

If you knew Bill Long, you likely have a story to tell! Please take a moment to share your memory so that future generations can truly appreciate the impact he had on our community and lives. Click this link to Submit Your Story of Bill or to read what others have shared.

Bill Long in front
of the Co-op Bookstore
Click this link for video!