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.

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The CDFI Fund has identified over 41,000 population census tracts that are eligible for designation as a QOZ, including (1) 31,680 population census tracts that are Low-Income Communities (LICs) eligible for designation as QOZs; and (2) 9,453 non-LIC population census tracts that are eligible for designation if a particular LIC contiguous to the non-LIC tract is designated as a QOZ. Contiguous Tracts must be at or below 125% of the area median income.

Now that Opportunity Zones have been designated, individual and corporate investors are then given the opportunity to defer capital gains taxes when they reinvest the earnings in these communities. Additional incentives accrue over five, seven and ten years if the investment is maintained – thereby promoting the kind of patient capital that distressed communities so often lack. Get more of the resources you need to learn about Opportunity Zones from the US Impact Investing Alliance.

This white paper from the Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative discusses a timely and significant opportunity for community foundations (CFs): How they can use the recently enacted federal Opportunity Zone tax incentive to benefit communities in need by leveraging their knowledge of underprivileged communities, networks of donors, and commitment to community development. The memo explores several options for CFs to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone (OZ) incentive to support their mission.

Guest writer Adam Northup, LOCUS Advisor, shares what every Community Foundation should know about Opportunity Zones. Created by the new tax law, this new tool has the potential to revitalize left behind communities.

The OZ program is intended to spur long-term investments in low-income census tracts in the U.S. The new law allows investors to place unrealized capital gains (a profit from an investment that hasn’t yet been sold) into authorized O Funds that invest capital into OZs. The greatest benefits would go to investors who invest for 10 or more years. Learn more from the Mission Investors Exchange about the benefits, risks, and potential of opportunity zones.

With the creation of the federal Opportunity Zones incentive program, trillions of dollars in new private investment will flow into pre-designated low-income communities around the country. But will this investment benefit the people living in these communities now, or will they be displaced as new interest and development brings increased property values and rents? And what kind of development will result —unsustainable, car-dependent sprawl (the dominant growth paradigm in the United States today) or walkable, mixed-use communities with a variety of housing options for everyone?

Treasury and IRS have issued an initial set of proposed regulations and guidance on how the Qualified Opportunity Zone tax benefits under IRC 1400Z-2 (including the certification of Qualified Opportunity Funds and eligible investments in Qualified Opportunity Zones) will be administered.

In April 2017, the Veterans Philanthropy Exchange, a veterans funders’ network hosted by the Council on Foundations, devoted a portion of its fifth annual convening to discuss what interests, challenges, and needs might drive a future agenda in veterans’ philanthropy. While the deliberation process continues around the idea of a national agenda for the sector, this document summarizes insights and ideas from that recent discussion, and is intended to contribute philanthropic thought for the George W. Bush Institute’s Stand-To/National Veterans Convening on June 22-23, 2017.