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.

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Community Foundations are the backbone of thriving communities—and here is the evidence. These studies and reports provide fact-driven, data-based evidence illustrating the importance and impact of Community Foundations.

Community Foundation leaders, staff, board members, and others wanting to learn more can exchange ideas, perspectives, and information about the issues that matter most to them – and to the philanthropic sector as a whole – on the Philanthropy Exchange.

Community Foundations have an important story to tell. This section provides a one-stop-shop for the guidance, materials, and messages Community Foundations need to engage with policymakers and other community leaders, and to build these important relationships and communicate about their organizational impact in a clear, compelling way to protect against policy changes that could diminish Community Foundations’ capabilities.

Community Foundations make a real impact in their communities—as is demonstrated through these stories from the field. Use these stories as examples on how you can frame your own message of impact.

Community Foundations can use these public policy tools to address challenges, create and implement innovative solutions, and maximize the impact of their investment on the communities they serve.

In philanthropy we’ve long known that we play a unique role by addressing society’s most pressing challenges at their root. Our work is distinct from charity – focused less on meeting immediate needs and more on tackling the underlying causes. And we’re well positioned to take risks to figure out what strategies work best to solve social problems, something that companies and other players beholden to greater political and consumer pressures can’t always do.

In 2012, the Department of Treasury and the IRS issued proposed regulations applicable to private foundations seeking to make grants to foreign organizations using equivalency determinations. At the time, the Council submitted comments in support of the rules, and urged Treasury and the IRS to consider making additional clarifications to the rules that apply to international grantmaking.

It’s an ever-clear sky today. Just as it was in 2001. And yet ever-clear and jet trails slicing September blue-skies then are now reminders, important ones, of the events of 9/11 and the losses and learnings we have experienced since.

Reminders of those we mourn can help us grieve.  Public memorials serve to both remind us who we mourn – may we never forget – and the very ideals we collectively honor.  While beacons of light illuminate an ever-shifting New York skyline, there is another memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that has its own story.