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. You can use the filtering options on the right to narrow these results.

As part of the Council’s global philanthropy program, this members-only conference call on July 1, 2015 provided an overview on policy developments in Mexico that are impacting the flow of U.S. philanthropy into the country. On the call, expert speakers delved into the implications for funders of a new anti-money laundering law, changes to the Mexican tax code, and the consequences of the U.S.-Mexico trade agreement.

This flow chart was designed by the Community Foundation of Louisville to describe the process of evaluating, processing, and making impact investments in their community. It follows a similar model developed by the Greater Cincinnati Community Foundation, which is discussed in the Community Foundation Field Guide to Impact Investment.

Foundation recordkeeping is an inherently dull topic—unless it’s done wrong. The foundation manager who has not kept adequate documentation regarding expenditure responsibility grants will surely find an IRS audit more exciting than he might like. Similarly, a foundation manager confronted with a trustee succession battle will find the situation even more nerve-racking if she cannot put her hands on copies of the minutes of the meeting held years ago at which the succession issue was addressed and resolved.

The Charitable IRA Portfolio is a collection of tools designed to help communicate the exciting giving opportunities available to donors. 

If you are an accredited community foundation, but not a member of the Council, please email membership@cof.org in order to access the toolkit.

Revised to reflect recent legislative changes, the portfolio includes:

With Congress and the media focusing on corporate governance and foundation administration, it is a good time to make sure that all grantmakers have a strong conflict of interest policy in place. Both private foundations and public charities (such as community foundations) should have clear guidelines on financial or other interests that must be disclosed and transactions that must be scrutinized or avoided. The policy should cover both board members and foundation staff.

The Council's Board of Directors released this guidance memorandum in March 2010 and strongly recommends that when reviewing and approving foundation investment policies and procedures practices, all foundations—private and public-consider these best practices in foundation investment management.

The 2014 Community Foundation Week Toolkit has sample resources and tools to help with outreach and publicity as your community foundation celebrates its work.