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. 

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.
For even the most math-phobic readers, this guide provides a convenient reference that explains the public support test as well as tools to help calculate a charity's percentage of public support. This chapter is divided into eight parts which provide an overview of the Public Support Test, then delves into specific topics including how to calculate each portion of the formula, what is not included in the Public Support Test, and consequences of failing the Public Support Test.
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Join this peer-led discussion for community foundation staff to connect and learn within the Council network.
You may have started your career in philanthropy knowing that community foundations not only impact the neighborhoods they serve, but also inspire a commitment to the greater good across counties, states, and the country — or you may have learned this along the way. Community Foundation Week, established by President George H.W. Bush in 1989, amplifies the importance of local philanthropy and celebrates the power of the “thousand points of light” that President Bush invoked.
The Council’s Public Policy Action Network is a group of foundation leaders committing their voices, experiences, and networks to engage and educate federal elected officials to foster a policy environment in which philanthropy can thrive. Policymakers depend on the voices and experiences of philanthropists to ensure that policies can best address the needs of foundations and their nonprofit partners.
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