The history of the University of Helsinki’s funds stretches back centuries. Today, the University's donated funds comprise more than 250 named funds. The oldest known fund established on a private donation which continues to award scholarships is based on the bequest from Lieutenant Erik Ekestubbe from 1745. Other donated funds tracing back to the era of the Royal Academy of Turku in the 18th century include the Haartman and Bilmark funds.
The heyday for establishing named funds at the University was during the early years of Finland’s independence, until the 1930s. Relatively few funds were established between the late 1950s and the 1990s, but in the new millennium, named funds have again been more frequently established. The history of the University’s funds is full of visionary donors, with the will, drive and understanding of how a targeted fund could best promote the development of science and boost welfare in Finland. Funds reflect the society and the period of time that gave rise to them. War, language disputes, the political climate and the creation of new disciplines have all spurred donors to establish funds. Some have wanted to promote language skills, or research in mathematics and physics, while others have focused on teaching in education or the study of tuberculosis. The most important goals for founding a fund have been securing or promoting a discipline, financially supporting talented low-income students, enhancing international activities and collection of information, promoting the cause of Finland and humanity through research, improving the situation of a particular locality or language, commemorating an important person or event in Finland or the University, honouring the life’s work of a loved one, and appreciation for the donor's own education and alma mater.