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.

There are 717 community foundations in the United States making grants of about $4.6 billion in their communities. I know because it’s on the cover of a publication about community foundations.

What I don’t know is why anyone would care.

It’s not just that we should be talking about the impact that we have in our communities, the great work we do and support. It’s not that at all.

As a young professional and a newcomer to the field of philanthropy, the sessions at the Council on Foundations Fall Conference in New Orleans earlier this month offered a lot in the way of introduction. Not only an introduction to new colleagues from all over the map, but also to variations of the story of the community foundation.

It’s a continuing debate with foundation management: What are we going to do with our donor-advised funds (DAF)?

Do you grow this area with time and resources? And if so, are the risks finally being offset by a greater return at the foundation level?

In my last job, the learning curve seemed to remain vertical for much of my tenure, occasionally even tipping backwards. As is often the case in nonprofit organizations, the person I replaced had left somewhat suddenly and with much of the information about the position, although probably neatly organized, still in her brain. With no real community of colleagues from whom to learn (and commiserate), I ended up starting from scratch and repeating mistakes that had already been made.

Though the scalding heat of summer is likely to last for at least another month in Arkansas, the summer season is ending for many students as they prepare to return to school. As these students soon will do, funders and government staff recently gathered with sharpened pencils to learn together at Foundations 101.

What do Texas preschooler Owen Hernandez and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have in common?  As you’ll see during the Learning Lab<!--[if !supportNestedAnchors]--><!--[endif]-->, “Business Champions for Young Children,” at next month’s Fall Conference for Community Foundations in New Orleans, they both believe in the power of quality early learning to help children succeed in school and in life.

This fall’s CCFE public policy seminar for community foundations will be hosted in New Mexico. The seminar is intended to provide community foundation leaders with the necessary skills and tools to advocate and engage in public policy on behalf of the philanthropic sector.

In recent years, I’ve witnessed two interesting trends in philanthropy that are particularly resonant with community foundations. First, there has been a backlash against “strategic philanthropy” and accusations that foundations have become too focused on measurement and planning, using top-down approaches instead of nimbly responding to emergent and changing community needs.

Twelve years ago, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation tried what it thought was an unconventional move. Anxious to jump-start the downtown area, the foundation convened community and political leaders to devise a strategy for reclaiming the area where our city was born.

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.

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