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 2017, they gave an estimated $5.48 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. Currently, over 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, approximately 300 are members of the Council on Foundations. The community foundation model also has taken hold around the world. Community foundations have participated in the growth of international giving by U.S. foundations in recent years, with international giving by community foundations more than tripling, from $103 million in 2011 to $315 million in 2015, and community foundations' share of overall international giving by U.S. foundations more than doubling, from 1.4 percent in 2011 to 3.4 percent in 2015.

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. Please also visit cof.org/community-foundations for currated community foundation content. 

As Grantmakers, our desire to have a transformational impact on the communities we serve catalyzes and ignites our work. To create the greatest impact, we must work in tandem with nonprofits and those with lived experience to sufficiently understand the issues and to co-create a path forward. What does it truly look like to have nonprofits and communities drive our work? When and how should participation be employed to center our work on community needs?
Restore trust in the charitable sector by improving the impact of grants from private foundations. This session will survey best practices to identify grantees, structure and measure the impact of grants from private foundations designed to advance diversity, equity and inclusion.
Every aspect of public life depends on digital systems. Awareness and adaptation to the potential harms of digital systems is critical to pursuing positive change. Black women are leading the way in scholarship and advocacy regarding the intersections of digital systems, racism, and discrimination - in every domain of action from community advocacy to education to healthcare.. We’ll work from community-based data justice efforts, scholarship on digital Identity, and advocacy around AI to demonstrate ways that foundations can “upgrade” their strategies to fit our digital reality.
Will recovery from COVID and racial reckoning finally bring our society closer to racial justice? This session will explore how foundations can shift the ways capital enters communities of color by helping to build investment ecosystems that finance community priorities. Participants will look at examples of community ownership and control, wealth-building strategies, and ways to expand capital access for businesses owned by people of color and workshop how foundations can intervene to advance these approaches.
CDP and Candid have conducted two research report on COVID-19 philanthropy, tracking over $20.2 billion in disaster giving for the pandemic within 2020. Our data from the reports have shown us an increase in BIPOC giving over the course of the year, as well as increased flexibility in grantmaking. This is also a direction CDP has been engaged in as it expands its DEI and localization work in the context of disasters generally and COVID-19 specifically. Our session will share data about disaster grantmaking and COVID-19 philanthropy. More importantly, it will also stimulate conversation about how we have to move forward as grantmakers in looking at racial justice, disaster recovery etc., in ways that build trust and share power with grantees.
Global grantmaking is more important and urgent than ever before. However, to address crises around the world, foundations working internationally must adapt to overcome new threats to their work and ensure the safety of their nonprofit partners and the well-being of their staff. As a result of inhospitable regulations and historically ineffective methods of working internationally, global funders often face an uphill battle to achieve their missions and support their partners. Join us for this Leading Together 2021 preconference session as we examine the most pressing challenges facing global funders and the communities they support, and how foundations can work more effectively across borders.
Join the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, HHS’ Administration for Children and Families, and the American Public Human Services Association on their journey to advance whole family approaches to economic mobility, leveraging a unique public-private partnership with diverse perspectives: legislators, state and federal officials, business leaders, nonprofits, philanthropy, and parents. These partners bridged jurisdictions, party lines, and state borders during very divisive times to find bipartisan solutions to overcome policy barriers across government and advance family economic mobility.
We are in a pivotal time for public policy action in our nation. Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, and racial justice crisis magnified the deep-rooted systemic barriers that prevent many Americans — especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other marginalized communities — from building a better future. As communities and the nation begin the process of recovery, how can philanthropy support a more equitable, inclusive future through civic engagement and advocacy? Join this Leading Together 2021 preconference session to hear from thought leaders, foundation executives, and advocates who are working at the forefront of social change and challenging existing policies that maintain the status quo.
While 2020 has taught us a great deal, I am confident it has bolstered our commitment to see about change in our communities for the good of all. For this reason, I hope you pause this Thursday, which marks Community Foundation Week, (November 12-18th, 2020), to acknowledge the deep-rooted, influential, and meaningful organization you bring forth to the local community.
Designed by and for community foundation CEOs, this preconference session will focus on the critical role community foundations play in building community. Specifically, we will explore the role of community foundations in repairing the frayed threads of trust, unity and inclusion in our communities’ and our country's social fabric. In partnership with CEONet, this session will explore how community foundations can work together and with their local partners on solutions to the pressing issues we all face.