Community Foundations

Community foundations are grantmaking public charities that are dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined local geographic area. They bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities. Community foundations vary widely in asset size, ranging from less than $100,000 to more than $1.7 billion.

Community foundations play a key role in identifying and solving community problems. In 2011, they gave an estimated $4.3 billion to a variety of nonprofit activities in fields that included the arts and education, health and human services, the environment, and disaster relief. The Community Foundations National Standards Board confirms operational excellence in six key areas—mission, structure, and governance; resource development; stewardship and accountability; grantmaking and community leadership; donor relations; and communications. Foundations that comply with these standards can display the official National Standards Seal. Right now nearly 500 community foundations have earned the seal.

More than 750 community foundations operate in urban and rural areas in every state in the United States; currently, more than 570 belong to the Council on Foundations. The community foundation model also has taken hold around the world. According to the 2010 Community Foundation Global Status Report, there are 1,680 community foundations in 51 countries. Forty-six percent exist outside of the United States. You can use our Community Foundation Locator to view a list of community foundations in the United States.

Below is everything on our site for community foundations. We highly recommend that you use the navigation or our search feature to find what you're looking for on our site.

Data gathered in the 2015 Council on Foundations–Commonfund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community Foundations® (CCSF) show that participating private foundations reported an average return of 0.0 percent for the 2015 fiscal year (January 1 – December 31, 2015), down from the 6.1 percent return reported for FY2014, while participating community foundations reported an average annual return of -1.8 percent compared with 4.8 percent for FY2014.

The effective spending rate remained unchanged at an average of 5.1 percent for all participating foundations.

The CCSF is the most comprehensive and authoritative annual survey of its kind on foundation investment and governance practices, and provides data for the benefit of foundation trustees and staff, as well as the larger community of grantees, policymakers and stakeholders. The 228 foundations participating in the 2015 CCSF represent $100.6 billion in assets. One hundred thirty private and 98 community foundations make up the Study, which covers the 2015 fiscal year (January 1-December 31, 2015). Topics covered in the Study include:

Hit by one of the largest U.S. disasters since Hurricane Sandy, residents and communities in the State of Louisiana are experiencing historic flooding and need your help. Several deaths have been attributed to the flooding, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated, and thousands are currently in shelters. Federal and state government aid won’t be enough; our charitable contributions are critical to helping thousands of families and individuals recover and rebuild. 

Back again with August updates from the Council and opportunities you might find useful.

Connect with Your Peers in Upcoming Workshop and Learning Forum

I am very excited to announce our upcoming workshop on community leadership, donor engagement, advocacy, and impact investing in Louisville, KY, this October 13-14. Please join us!

Foundation Leader in Residence at the Council

Stephanie Bell-Rose is the Senior Managing Director and Head of the TIAA Institute.

The Council on Foundations’ 2016 Endowments and Finance Summit is just around the corner – Sept. 28-30 – and as co-chair of the convening's working group, I strongly encourage you to register for it!

To keep you in the know about happenings that affect foundations that fund across borders and new opportunities for learning, sharing, and collaboration, I am excited to introduce you to the Council’s new Global Philanthropy Update. Every month, we will highlight resources available through the Council and share important news from the field.

For foundations that offer charitable remainder annuity trusts (CRATs), a new revenue procedure (Rev. Proc. 2016-42) offers a sample provision that may be included in the governing instrument of the trust (CRAT) and provides that the IRS will treat the sample provision as a qualified contingency within the meaning of § 664(f) of the Internal Revenue Code.

D5’s Final State of the Work highlights voices of leaders in the field who share their stories of change and progress.  Some are longtime advocates; some are newer enthusiasts. Each of them shares a perspective on what has worked and what challenges remain as they lead their institutions through changes to meet the demands of a new America.

This final report catalogs the stories that tell of human impact and human struggle to create a more equitable philanthropy. Some of these stories are:

Why do the Sustainable Development Goals matter to philanthropy?

These broad global goals address the same problems that our field is tackling: to reduce poverty, improve livelihoods and quality of life, and create a more equitable global society. Looking at the range of issues in the SDGs, all funders can find their work within these collective goals, regardless of what type of foundation you are and whether you fund programs in 90 countries or focus your grantmaking on a specific community in the United States.

Join the Council on Foundations for a member-only workshop for community foundations where we will explore ways you can maximize your foundation’s impact by leveraging community resources in and outside of your foundation.