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.

Community Foundations are the backbone of thriving communities—and here is the evidence. These studies and reports provide fact-driven, data-based evidence illustrating the importance and impact of Community Foundations.

Community Foundation leaders, staff, board members, and others wanting to learn more can exchange ideas, perspectives, and information about the issues that matter most to them – and to the philanthropic sector as a whole – on the Philanthropy Exchange.

Community Foundations have an important story to tell. This section provides a one-stop-shop for the guidance, materials, and messages Community Foundations need to engage with policymakers and other community leaders, and to build these important relationships and communicate about their organizational impact in a clear, compelling way to protect against policy changes that could diminish Community Foundations’ capabilities.

Community Foundations make a real impact in their communities—as is demonstrated through these stories from the field. Use these stories as examples on how you can frame your own message of impact.

Community Foundations can use these public policy tools to address challenges, create and implement innovative solutions, and maximize the impact of their investment on the communities they serve.

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.