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.

On September 25th at the United Nations, 193 countries ratified the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global targets that will serve as a new global framework for how governments, philanthropy, non-profits, and the private sector can work together to address challenges all of us and the communities we serve face on a local and global scale. Council staff have been participating in conversations about achieving these goals and philanthropy’s critical role in this endeavor.

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.

In the last year, there has been a spike in the number of refugees fleeing into Europe. There are still three-and-a-half months left in 2015, but the number of arriving refugees this year is already more than double the amount from all of 2014. The camps and centers that some refugees are forced to stay in are overcrowded and often lack food, water and other basic necessities.

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. 

NOTE: This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

As a boy, I remember reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with my first grade class. We said it in unison; we stood together; and over time we came to understand what it meant.

As I got older, I would listen to the recorded voice of a young President at his Inaugural, who summoned a generation to think less of themselves and more of their country.

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.

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.