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.

On September 25th at the United Nations, 193 countries ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global targets that will serve as a new global framework for how governments, philanthropy, non-profits, and the private sector can work together to address challenges all of us and the communities we serve face on a local and global scale. Council staff have been participating in conversations about achieving these goals and philanthropy’s critical role in this endeavor.

In the last year, there has been a spike in the number of refugees fleeing into Europe. There are still three-and-a-half months left in 2015, but the number of arriving refugees this year is already more than double the amount from all of 2014. The camps and centers that some refugees are forced to stay in are overcrowded and often lack food, water and other basic necessities.

Data gathered from 244 private and community foundations participating in the 2014 Council on Foundations–Commonfund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community FoundationsTM (CCSF) show that the 142 private foundations participating in the study reported an average return of 6.1 percent for the 2014 fiscal year (January 1 – December 31, 2014), down from the 15.6 percent return reported for FY2013, while the 102 participating community foundations reported an average return of 4.8 percent for FY2014 compared to last year’s average return of 15.2 percent.

The Council actively asserts its leadership role in the global policy space to ensure a positive regulatory environment for global philanthropy. To do that, the Council develops substantive policy positions on behalf of its members and submits regulatory comments and letters to U.S. policymakers, foreign governments and intergovernmental bodies, and advocates before domestic and international bodies that set policies that impact cross-border philanthropy.

The Council on Foundations supports mandatory electronic filing of Form 990s and publicly-available data about the nonprofit sector, while cautioning lawmakers to involve nonprofits in implementation and ensure adequate data protection.

Several years ago, the IRS began requiring electronic filing, or e-filing, of Forms 990 and 990-PF for certain classes of tax-exempt organizations; it also made e-filing an option for all filers. Many organizations already choose to e-file for the efficiency it affords, and each year increasing numbers of organizations are making the transition.

The Council supports recent efforts by the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and Internal Revenue Services (IRS) to provide much-needed clarity on the political activities of tax-exempt organizations. However, the Council strongly opposes any new rules that would dampen nonpartisan activities and civic engagement efforts of nonprofit organizations.

Engage With Your Lawmakers Today!

Advocacy and engagement with lawmakers is an essential part of preserving and strengthening philanthropy. It provides an opportunity for you to communicate—in a variety of ways—the positive impact of charitable giving in the lives of their constituents every day, and ensure that they understand how the decisions they make in Washington matter at home.

Many recognize this. From those who do, we hear:

The Council has concerns about proposals in recent years that would expand the scope of the unrelated business income tax.

The Council opposes any policy proposal that would eliminate types of supporting organizations and reduce the variety and flexibility of charitable giving tools available to foundations and donors alike.

Delivered Monday, July 13 during the 2015 NAACP National Convention along with Senator Casey, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairman G.K. Butterfield and more.

The full video remarks can be viewed here with Vikki Spruill starting at 1:11.