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.

The Council on Foundations’ Foundation Management Series provides foundation boards and staff with the tools needed to benchmark their practices and operations against peers in the field. Containing data from the Council’s 2009 Foundation Management survey, the series consists of three reports: Board Composition and Compensation, Administrative and Investment Expenses, and Fiscal Oversight. Governance and Administrative Expenses: Key Findings provides a summary of survey data from all three reports.

This valuable resource guides foundations interested in becoming part of the national policy conversation and educating legislators about their impact in society. It offers advice on scheduling a meeting with a member of Congress; format options for those meetings; sample letter, fax, and e-mail formats; and more.

This sample matching gift policy can be easily customized for your foundation's use.  

This sample grant proposal review worksheet may be used by staff or board to help rank your findings.

This sample declination letter can help you inform grant applicants that their grant proposal was not accepted.

The challenges of the recent financial downturn have inspired many community foundations to find new paths to business model innovation. Alliances, affiliations, and mergers offer one path to “shared success.” Seeking shared success with other community foundations is one intriguing way to innovate and change the business model equation.

This sample grant proposal application checklist can be customized to your foundation's processes, allowing you to check off each step of the grant application process.  

This sample grant proposal acknowledgment letter will allow you to let prospective grantees know that their application was received.