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. We highly recommend that you use the navigation or our search feature to find what you're looking for on our site.

The Council submitted comments to the Department of Treasury regarding the Form 990. These comments highlighted elements of the Form that our Legal Affairs team receives inquiries about most often, and that we've found to create issues for participants of our National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations® program.

Beginning in 2014, there has been a spike in the number of refugees arriving in Europe who are fleeing countries in conflict. During 2015, the number of arriving refugees has already more than doubled the amount of refugees who came to Europe in all of 2014. The unprecedented movement of people around the world has created the highest number of displaced persons since World War II. More than half of registered refugees are children and youth. Nearly 400,000 refugees, often arriving on smugglers boats across the Mediterranean Sea, have arrived in Europe in 2015.

Some people are drawn to snow-covered mountain peaks, others to the lush canopies of forests a meandering river, a shimmering plain. For me it is the call of the sea. The endless horizon brings me peace and each wave  a grace note in our ecosystem’s symphony. It is the sea where I go to think, to connect, and to be.

As I've read and watched others' reflections on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's destruction of a great American city, I'm compelled to tell some of my story. New Orleans is not a place where I practice grant making or convening, but it is a place near and dear to my heart, one I've visited for over forty years -- Mardi Gras, Halloween, Christmas, the New Year, jazz fest, Sugar Bowl, Council on Foundations' conferences. I have celebrated all of these in New Orleans.

Data gathered from 244 private and community foundations participating in the 2014 Council on Foundations–Commonfund Study of Investment of Endowments for Private and Community FoundationsTM (CCSF) show that the 142 private foundations participating in the study reported an average return of 6.1 percent for the 2014 fiscal year (January 1 – December 31, 2014), down from the 15.6 percent return reported for FY2013, while the 102 participating community foundations reported an average return of 4.8 percent for FY2014 compared to last year’s average return of 15.2 percent.

This piece was originally published in the Los Angeles Times on August 16, 2015.

Bipartisan consensus around criminal justice reform is growing nationally with more foundations increasing their efforts to change the way we think about prisons and public safety. As this issue continues to gain momentum, we ask how can philanthropy take a leadership role in reforming the criminal justice system in America?

Join the Council on Foundations for a Twitter Chat, Wednesday, August 26 from 12-1 PM ET, as we explore these important questions together.