In 2008, during the Obama Administration’s transition, Valerie Jarrett, now Senior Advisor to President Obama, was the featured speaker at a Council Policy Forum. She asked foundations to become partners in the social innovation agenda the incoming Administration was committed to incorporate into its policies and programs. The Policy Forum attendees responded positively, and in an effort to provide a coordinated response, the Council organized a formal public-philanthropic partnership initiative.
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.
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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.