The Walter Cerf Community Fund

Walter Cerf was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1907. The son of a successful businessman, he spent most of his youth in Berlin. He attended university in Freiburg, Heidelburg, and elsewhere before being awarded his Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton University. After becoming a United States citizen, he served in military intelligence with the 35th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II. For his service, he was awarded the Bronze Star. In 1947, he began a twenty-five year career as a Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College. He retired to his summer home in Leicester, Vermont, in 1972. 

Although his father’s business, Gesellschaft für Eigentumsschutz, a night security agency, was expropriated by the Nazis in 1938, one-half of the company was returned to the family after World War II. In 1987, Mr. Cerf sold his interest in the company. During the last twenty years of his life, Walter Cerf made gifts exceeding $10 million to more than 100 different organizations in Vermont. At his death in 2001, a permanent endowment, the Walter Cerf Community Fund, was established at the Vermont Community Foundation. The Fund makes grants annually in Walter’s name and will continue the generosity of this remarkable man in perpetuity.

What We Fund

The Walter Cerf Community Fund (WCCF) makes grants to address charitable needs in the state of Vermont. Priority interests are the arts, education, historic preservation, and social services, reflecting the pattern of giving established by Mr. Cerf over many years. Within these issue areas, there is a strong desire to support work that addresses the needs of underserved populations. The WCCF prefers proposals that encourage cooperation, collaboration, and community building. We highly value the input of the Preservation Trust and strongly encourage grantseekers for historic preservation projects to consult with the Trust before submitting an application. The WCCF will rarely fund an entire project, but favors projects which have support from a variety of sources.

Grants are made to organizations that either have a statewide constituency and make a unique contribution to Vermont, or are located in Addison County or Brandon. Approximately 70% of funds available will be awarded to programs and projects in the Addison County/Brandon area; the remaining 30% of available funds will support statewide programs and projects.

2021 Fund Update: Recognizing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the operations of local nonprofits, the fund is temporarily expanding its criteria for funding to also include general operating requests. Additionally, in order to provide grants to a greater number of organizations in the region, the Fund will not consider $25,000 requests in 2021.

What We Don't Fund

In general, the WCCF will not make grants for endowments, religious purposes, individuals, or debt reduction. Operating support for $5,000 or less may be provided on occasion, but will not normally be a priority for the WCCF. 

Who May Apply

All applicants to programs at the Vermont Community Foundation must meet these guidelines.

Grant Size

Grant awards will range from $500 to $5,000.

Deadline and Notification

The Walter Cerf Community Fund 2021 deadline: Applications will be accepted between April 2 - June 23, 2021. Applications must be received by 5PM on Wednesday, June 23 in order to be considered. 

Application Process

All applications must be submitted electronically. Visit our Online Grants Center page to learn how and to register for a new account. Or click here to access your existing account.

To help you prepare, click here to preview a sample of the application. Please note that this is a PDF sample and not the actual application. To view and begin working on the application, login to the Online Grants Manager (OGM), which can be accessed at