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. 

The bonus Module on Sustainable Development Goals is a tremendous addition to the express training program. Module 16 may jog board and staff discussions on systemic change, equity, and the application of the ready-made tool for donor and program development, investments and operations, internal culture building, and alignment of the budget to allow for all to be “rowing” in the same direction.
In 2020, the Mott Foundation commissioned philanthropic researcher, Dr. Larry McGill, to examine how U.S. community foundations can use the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to lead local revitalization efforts, advance racial equity and recover from the complex effects of the pandemic. The subsequent report aims to help community foundations unpack the SDG framework and use it to create an organized approach to their work toward systemic change.
Council on Foundations and re-constituted affinity group, CEONet, invite CEOs and Executive Directors of community foundations to join a virtual roundtable.
Earlier this year, the Council on Foundations issued a COVID-19 Call to Action to its community of domestic and international funders, asking foundations to provide unrestricted funding to grantee organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This call to action prompted a timely discussion with several of Give2Asia’s funding partners about the trade-offs of offering unrestricted funding generally. We continue to welcome these conversations and encourage funders and other intermediaries to consider whether general support grantmaking needs renewed focus as a best practice.
The Global Goals Mapping Tool is a comprehensive resource that maps giving and volunteerism using both the IRS National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) codes and the United Nations International Classification of Nonprofit Organizations (ICNPO) codes to classify the activity and programs of charities and connect them to the SDGs.
The Council on Foundations today announced the appointment of four nonprofit leaders to its Board of Directors, as well as the renomination of two current members for a second term. New members include: Martha I. Jimenez, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of The California Endowment; Brandee McHale, Head of Citi Community Investing and Development and President of the Citi Foundation; Jennifer Ford Reedy, President of the Bush Foundation; and Mai-Anh Tran, Chief Financial Officer of the Ford Foundation.
Hate-related violence has been on the rise for several years in the U.S., as have extremist groups whose work targets specific communities based on race, ethnicity, and other characteristics. Even before the recent violent attempt to take over the U.S. Capitol raised these issues to a new level of awareness, our members have been actively engaged in finding ways to make sure that their values of fairness and equity are reflected in their funding practices. Over the past few years, members have shared their approaches and asked for additional resources in addressing these issues, especially the funding of hate groups that operate as legitimate 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations.
For over 70 years, the Council has supported philanthropy’s efforts to advance the greater good amidst persistent global challenges. Over the past twelve months we have faced crises unlike anything we have seen before, including the recent assault on our democracy. And yet, while the struggles we face may change over time, one thing remains consistent: philanthropy is an enduring and essential source of support for those in need.
The Career Pathways program is a highly selective pipeline expansion opportunity open to individuals from diverse backgrounds who are currently employed in foundations. The 2021 program applications opened Friday, January 8, 2021, and must be submitted by Friday, February 12, 2021. Join us for this information with the Career Pathways Council Team to learn about the new 2021 virtual program!
A well-trained staff and an informed board are critical to the success of community foundations in our fast-changing world. This traditionally in-person, two-day course adapted to virtual in four, half day sessions helps new and growing foundation stakeholders build the essential skills they need to balance governance and management with the broader understanding of community foundations within the philanthropic sector.