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.

Many foundation staff remain mystified (and enamored) with mission investing and the promise it holds for leveraging foundation resources to support their missions. However, it is clear that many foundations do not fully understand the full complement of mission investing strategies and how to implement them effectively.

This white paper provides a review of critical governance issues that foundations must consider to remain in compliance with prevailing and emerging laws and regulations. Readers can expect content focused on Trustee fiduciary responsibilities as relates to duties of care, loyalty, and responsibility.

This white paper outlines best practices with proven results that foundations can use to find and create a diverse and inclusive staff and investment advisory team. Readers will learn how to make the business case for more diverse and equitable strategies and link success in this area with investment results.

We have heard from many of you that it would be valuable to have some points to reference as you speak to your colleagues and board about the value of your engagement with the Council on Foundations.

Only you can authentically speak about your experience and reasons to continue your membership with the Council. Whether you attended a training session, met new colleagues at a conference, utilized research tools, or received valuable guidance from the legal team, these interactions help convey your positive experience with the Council.

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.

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 in order to access the toolkit.

Revised to reflect recent legislative changes, the portfolio includes:

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.

This explanatory overview of community foundations can help the public better understand the field of community philanthropy, and how your foundation works.

These sample Community Foundation Week Facebook or LinkedIn posts can help you with outreach to your social media followers.