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.

Many foundations may be uncertain about what’s involved when it comes to succession planning. Some wonder why they should worry about the future at all when they have so much work to do in managing their grantmaking, community leadership and development, and administrative duties.

Succession planning is more than just replacing a CEO. It’s an opportunity to evaluate what works at your foundation—and identify areas in which you can improve. It can give both the board and staff a clear picture of long-term goals, and help you set priorities and make decisions.

Working with the media should be part of your overall communications plan. Even if you don't have a written communications plan, you still need to focus some attention toward the media. Working with the media—that is, public relations—establishes a strong public presence and image for your foundation. This helps the public understand your foundation and its value in the community. You also shape public opinion and, ideally, influence the actions of donors, grantees, and community leaders.

Staff members administering a company’s charitable giving program are sometimes asked whether payments to a charity may be deducted as a charitable contribution or a business expense by the company. Although business expense deductions have fewer limitations than charitable contribution deductions, a company does not have complete discretion in choosing whether to deduct a payment as a business expense or a charitable contribution.

Charitable contribution deduction

A Toolkit for Community Foundations

“Impact investing” is the practice of investing for social and environmental impact while generating financial return. For community foundations, impact investing represents a new, complementary tool for achieving community change. Community foundations are poised to take advantage of this practice being increasingly embraced by a variety of investors leveraging their unique role in community.

As different as foundations can be from one another, they all share the need to know what works and, especially, what works well. The more foundations can show how their grants are making a difference, the more value they can bring to their communities.

To know what works, foundations must evaluate their grants. Evaluation has many benefits. It helps the foundation assess the quality or impact of funded programs, plan and implement new programs, make future grant decisions, and demonstrate accountability to the public trust.

Social media is an increasingly prevalent part of our world. Whether it’s on the news, sitting in traffic, or talking with colleagues, you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid mention of Facebook or Twitter. Is there a good way for your foundation to become involved?

Note to the Program Officer

The scope of the program officer job description has evolved. Where it was once primarily tactical—reviewing funding requests and developing requests for proposals—the program officer’s role more commonly includes strategic activities. Program officers must master three distinct areas: (1) developing and strengthening internal networksand relationships, (2) creating the foundation/giving program’s grantmaking strategy,and (3) engaging grantees and the community.

Keeping donors interested and excited about their philanthropy is a fundamental task for a community foundation. After all, donors are your best source for additional gifts and larger “legacy” gifts in the future.

Community foundations provide donor services to achieve two main goals: to keep donors engaged (giving) and teach them how to give wisely. Beyond that, donor services can accomplish many smaller goals. Community foundations typically provide these donor services:

As needs in their communities continue to grow, community foundations recognize the importance of making the right investment decisions. That’s because good investments help attract donors, preserve the long-term purchasing power of assets, and increase the amount of money available for grantmaking.

A development plan outlines a foundation’s goals and strategies for developing resources. It explains how staff, board members, and other volunteers should focus their development efforts within a certain period (usually one or two years). A development plan also helps measure progress in the midst of a process that might take years or even decades to bring tangible results.

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