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.

Visibility is vital to community foundations as they seek to gain credibility and attract new resources. But how can younger and smaller community foundations best use their limited marketing budgets? What audiences should they target first? How important is broad public awareness — and how much investment does it merit? This paper, written by Williams Group, addresses these questions and offers a tested model along with relevant examples and worksheets to help any community foundation create and manage its marketing program.

A national match day initiative designed to increase awareness of community foundations and the important work we do to support change in our communities. The initiative builds on the successful match day concept that many community foundations are already utilizing, augmenting these efforts with a national pool of matching funds and public relations and marketing campaigns. This is a unique opportunity for the field to work together to elevate community philanthropy in the national media.

The interactive Field Guide takes community foundations through three main stages of the impact investing journey: Learn, Design, and Activate. At each stage, visitors can click on various topics within that stage to learn more about what the topic entails and how other community foundations have approached place-based investing.

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.

A foundation's strategic plan describes its long-term goals and objectives, and how the organization will work to fulfill them. Like any management tool, a strategic plan—with a process to develop that plan—helps an organization improve its work. Specifically, a strategic plan focuses the board's energy, articulates explicit goals for the board and staff to work toward, and adjusts the organization's direction, if necessary, in response to a changing community.

A good strategic plan will:

Many foundations may be uncertain about what’s involved when it comes to succession planning. Some wonder why they should worry about the future at all when they have so much work to do in managing their grantmaking, community leadership and development, and administrative duties.

Succession planning is more than just replacing a CEO. It’s an opportunity to evaluate what works at your foundation—and identify areas in which you can improve. It can give both the board and staff a clear picture of long-term goals, and help you set priorities and make decisions.

Working with the media should be part of your overall communications plan. Even if you don't have a written communications plan, you still need to focus some attention toward the media. Working with the media—that is, public relations—establishes a strong public presence and image for your foundation. This helps the public understand your foundation and its value in the community. You also shape public opinion and, ideally, influence the actions of donors, grantees, and community leaders.

Staff members administering a company’s charitable giving program are sometimes asked whether payments to a charity may be deducted as a charitable contribution or a business expense by the company. Although business expense deductions have fewer limitations than charitable contribution deductions, a company does not have complete discretion in choosing whether to deduct a payment as a business expense or a charitable contribution.

Charitable contribution deduction

A collection of all impact investing publications from Mercer.

From Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, this handbook on responsible investing provides the blueprint for foundation asset managers interested in multiplying their organization’s impact on society through options that link mission with investments that create long-term value to society.

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