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, more than 570 belong to 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. 

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.

Editable scholarship award letter to be sent to selected grantees.

This sample document is being provided for informational purposes and is not to be shared without the permission of the Council on Foundations.  Use of the sample document does not create an attorney-client relationship, and the information provided is not a substitute for expert legal, tax or other professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.  The information may not be relied upon for the purposes of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code.

Editable internal polices for staff, board members and committee members about the use of social media.

This month is African American History Month, which honors the contributions of the black community to the history of the United States and the future of our country. As a white male, it reminds me that I am often unaware of the realities of my own whiteness.