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.

More than 30 U.S. community foundations have taken a fresh look at aging in recent years. And they are bringing a new view to their communities—one that considers older adults to be a vast, untapped resource for social change.

As part of the Community Experience Partnership, an initiative of The Atlantic Philanthropies, these community foundations assessed their ability to engage people over the age of 50 in tackling serious local issues.

Passion, integrity, and engagement: These are the key ingredients to successful outcomes or growth in a community (well, everywhere, really). It takes passion to get involved and make changes. It takes integrity be steadfast and do what you say you are going to do, especially when facing the extraordinary challenges we see today in communities, the economy, the government, or even within foundations themselves. And lastly, it takes engagement to set and achieve identified goals.

In the U.S., more than half of the children younger than a year old are of color and almost one in every 10 counties is majority-minority. By 2023, the majority of U.S. children will be of color. And by 2042, people of color will comprise the majority of the entire U.S. population. These demographics have been shifting over several decades and are especially pronounced in the metropolitan areas that many community foundations represent.

I’m feeling “old.” Not as opposed to “young,” but as opposed to “new.” I think it’s all this talk in our sector lately about innovation. Whatever happened to “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” It’s just oh so sexy and attention-grabbing to label something as “new” even when it’s not.

The Fall Conference for Community Foundations* is fast approaching. I want to make sure that you are aware of several opportunities at the conference to learn about the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations™.

We know donor-advised funds (DAFs) are the engine of growth for many community foundations, but what do we know about the role they play in our communities? This is an often-discussed and debated topic among community foundation staff and boards.

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.


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