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.

Accepting gifts of real estate, subchapter S corporations, and business interests (including general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, and limited liability companies). As well as, determining when or if they trigger unrealted business tax (UBIT).

Use this flowchart to determine if grants from donor advised funds require expenditure responsibility.

Lawyers rarely tell foundation managers, "Relax, don’t worry so much!" But in the case of "tipping," that’s been our advice for more than 10 years. What is the so-called "tipping problem" and why are so many foundations (still) so worried about it?  

Good relationships between grantmakers and grantees promote more effective philanthropy. But there's nothing that can mess up a good partnership faster than an overzealous lawyer. In seeking to protect their foundation clients, lawyers can sometimes impose excessive requirements on grantees, forcing them to spend unnecessary time and money. While grantmakers should always pay attention to their lawyers' advice, here are some legal recommendations you might want to question.

Requiring grantees to "re-certify" tax-exempt status

After September 11, 2001, many grantmakers and other charitable organizations that were not previously familiar with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), learned of its existence. As one of the key U.S. government agencies seeking to shut down terrorism funding around the world, OFAC has focused attention on charities as one mechanism for providing financial support to terrorists. As a result, grantmakers and others have dedicated more time and effort to OFAC compliance.

In an effort to ensure that charitable resources are used exclusively for charitable purposes and not used to support terrorist activity, organizations may choose to adopt practices in addition to those explicitly required by law. Among the practices that some charities choose to adopt is including language in their grant agreements requiring grantees to certify that they do not and will not knowingly provide material support to any individual or entity furthering terrorist activities.

Can we back out of a multiyear commitment we made in a prior year because our foundation’s assets have declined?

The answer in many cases is “no.” That is, unless your grantee is willing to release your foundation from its obligation.

Generally, an unconditional, multiyear grant is considered a pledge to the grantee organization. In many states, a pledge is a legally binding obligation. Therefore, your grantee could seek to take you to court should you stop paying the grant.

With a little caution, community foundations can support the charitable activities of non-charities.

A chamber of commerce requests a grant to start a computer-training program.

A gardening club asks for money to cover a local beautification project.

A cemetery association seeks support for restoration of a memorial statue.

May a community foundation make any of these grants? The short answer: it depends. The longer answer follows.

Generally, there is no legal restriction against making grants to churches, synagogues, mosques or other religious institutions. But there are some things foundations interested in such grantmaking should know.

Everything you need to know to stay out of trouble with third-party representatives.

Does hearing the sentence "Just make that grant check payable to my fiscal agent" stop you in your tracks? It should. If your potential grantees are washing your grant funds through an accommodating charity that has no control over your grant-funded activities, you should be worried.

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