Roles of Community Foundations

Based on interviews with more than 150 community foundations, the Monitor Institute team developed this list of generic roles community philanthropy organizations play in their communities through their What's Next for Community Philanthropy initiative.

Starting in February, the Council will feature community foundations and stories that exemplify these roles as part of the Community Foundation Centennial initiative.

In the coming months, these roles will be further refined by the Monitor Institute as they continue their important research on community foundations.

Sharing Community Information

  • Compiling information about available resources & services
  • Tracking data about community wellbeing
  • Aggregating information about local organizations
  • Researching community issues and needs
  • Measuring programmatic outcomes and impact
  • Disseminating local news

Aligning Social Action

  • Connecting stakeholders around issues
  • Building coalitions
  • Coordinating efforts with other funders
  • Supporting/serving as the backbone for a collaboration
  • Pooling funds

Engaging the Community

  • Providing avenues for community input, ideas, and connection
  • Community organizing
  • Facilitating community dialogue
  • Strengthening social ties
  • Facilitating civic participation and volunteerism
  • Empowering resident decision-making

Deploying Financial Capital

  • Grantmaking
  • Supporting individuals (scholarships, fellowships)
  • Impact investing
  • Providing platforms to connect givers and recipients

Financial & Donor Services

  • Managing investments/endowment funds
  • Managing transactions for donors
  • Providing philanthropic advisory services
  • Executing donor-driven initiatives
  • Co-creating initiatives with donors
  • Educating donors about community issues
  • Connecting local philanthropists with each other

Expanding Financial Capital

  • Educating the public about philanthropy
  • Soliciting giving from local donors (individual or institutional)
  • Soliciting capital from outside the community
  • Attracting nontraditional donors
  • Developing earned income to support social purpose activities

Community Planning

  • Facilitating urban/rural planning processes
  • Promoting economic development planning
  • Planning for disaster response and prevention
  • Proactive long-term community planning

Building Community Capacity

  • Promoting nonprofit organizational effectiveness
  • Nurturing civic leaders
  • Growing local entrepreneurs & businesses
  • Developing the skills of local residents
  • Building local government capacity


  • Advocating for policy change
  • Influencing existing government & business priorities
  • Influencing public opinion
  • Promoting specific program models, organizations, and interventions
  • Representing the community regionally, nationally, or internationally

Direct Services & Action

  • Providing social services directly
  • Running public/government programs
  • Incubating nonprofits
  • Incubating social enterprises and businesses