Annual Study released by the Council on Foundations and CF Insights Shows Largest Growth Since 2007
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Arlington, VA

The Council on Foundations and CF Insights today released Guideposts to New Heights, the field’s most comprehensive report on community foundation assets, gifts, and grants. The data was collected from 276 community foundations including those representing more than 90 percent of total estimated community foundation assets. For the first time since the recession, the analysis shows asset, gift, and grant amounts reaching new heights. The Council on Foundations and CF Insights recognize the critical role community foundations play in our country and around the world and are pleased to share this new data demonstrating that many community foundations are well positioned to further strengthen the communities they serve.

Highlights from the study include:

  • The community foundation field represents $58B in assets, $6.9B in gifts, and $4.5B in grants
  • Between 2011 and 2012, average growth rates were:
    • Assets - 9%
    • Gifts - 15%
    • Grants - 6%
  • 79% of community foundations have 2012 asset levels that exceed 2007 asset levels
  • Donor advisors increased assets held in DAFs by 22% on average, representing faster growth than assets overall; these funds represent a significant amount of gift and grant activity at many community foundations
  • Almost 3/4 of community foundations increased their operating budget in 2012

"The Columbus Survey is a valuable tool that offers individual foundations the insight they need to evaluate their assets in the context of the community foundations field," said Vikki N. Spruill, president and CEO, the Council on Foundations. "We look forward to continued collaboration with our Community Foundations Leadership Team and CF Insights to make relevant data available to our members, so they can leverage their resources for the greatest impact in advancing the common good."

“We hope community foundations across the country find the insights from this year’s analysis to be helpful context for assessing aspects of performance,” said Rebecca Graves, executive director of CF Insights. “Community foundations make different choices and tradeoffs based on the communities in which they operate, but access to comparative data can help illuminate key challenges and opportunities.”

CF Insights makes the 2012 asset, gift, and grant survey data available to community foundations on its website. Additionally, survey participants and members of CF Insights have access to a variety of reports that offer a better understanding of growth and performance when compared to peers. Using metrics focused on asset development, grantmaking, investment performance, and sustainability, foundations can compare their 2012 performance to similar organizations and determine accurate and appropriate benchmarks for the future.

The Columbus Survey was produced by The Columbus Foundation from 1988 to 2007. In 2009, it was transitioned to CF Insights with support from the Council on Foundations Community Foundations Leadership Team.


The Council on Foundations (, formed in 1949, is a nonprofit membership association of grantmaking foundations and corporations. Members of the Council include more than 1,700 independent, operating, community, public and company-sponsored foundations, and corporate giving programs in the United States and abroad. The Council's mission is to provide the opportunity, leadership, and tools needed by philanthropic organizations to expand, enhance, and sustain their ability to advance the common good.

CF Insights ( is a division of FSG, a nonprofit strategy consulting firm specializing in strategy, evaluation, and research. Founded in 2006 in partnership with the Council on Foundations and the Community Foundations Leadership Team, CF Insights provides the field with comparative data on financial and operating metrics, research, and insights into emerging trends, and tools and resources for in-depth business model analysis.