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.

Why do community foundation CEOs pursue “community leadership” as a key organizing strategy in their foundations?

Because there was a leadership void in our community and we realized we were uniquely positioned to step up.

Because we recognized we had important assets that could help address the huge challenges facing our community.

Because under the status quo, things were getting worse in our community, not better.

In our role at FSG, we are professional advocates for strategy as an essential aspect of leadership to advance community solutions. Why does strategy matter?  The “you can’t be all things to all people” message is one of the simplest refrains—in the words of Michael Porter, this concept is “Strategy 101.”  And as people with ambition to change the world and instincts to do whatever we can to help our communities, we can all benefit from that reminder.

At Placer Community Foundation, our small staff of just 3.1 full-time employees means we need a staffing model that works incredibly well. We made a couple of decisions early on that really helped shape how we staff.

How should a mid-sized foundation position its initiatives in this age of austerity and how can one county and community foundation influence state-level decisions? These are questions that the Erie Community Foundation asked when it planned an early childhood education initiative more than a year ago, knowing that it would not be able to increase slots through increased state subsidies.

On May 15, the San José City Council approved a strong municipal ordinance that will curb the impact of predatory payday lending on residents of America’s 10th largest city. The vote, on a motion by Councilman Ash Kalra, is the latest and largest victory in Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s ongoing advocacy for local reforms and ultimately a statewide rate cap on payday loans.

What business does a community foundation have hawking for-profit deals to its donors and other community members?  How does it improve the quality of life in their community?  How does it promote the spirit and practice of philanthropy and service?   Well it turns out, some community foundations think that it has plenty of relevance to both goals.

For today’s post, we’ve asked two leaders to weigh in on topics of interest to young, growing community foundations. Their organizations—Kern Community Foundation and The Community Foundation of Mendocino County—participated in Community Foundations Initiative II, a multiyear initiative by The James Irvine Foundation to accelerate the growth and leadership of a group of emerging community foundations in rural parts of California.

Jeff Pickering: We are betting on a nontraditional staffing model

I recently signed a check for our 2012 Council on Foundations dues. Since I’m the chair of the Council that is probably not surprising. But that’s not my day job. My paycheck comes from being the CEO of Berks County Community Foundation. I was the first employee hired by the foundation, and, like any foundation CEO, I am very cautious about any dollar that leaves this place.

But I happily signed the check for our Council dues because it’s a good investment in our foundation and our community.

This infographic from the Charitable Giving Coalition shows why a cap on charitable deductions would undermine giving and have long-lasting consequences for all Americans.

From Mission Investors Exchange, 2012

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