What are community foundations?

Community foundations are grant-making organizations that help improve the lives of people in a specific 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 size, from less than $100,000 to more than $1.7 billion.

How do community foundations serve their communities?

Community foundations play a key role in identifying and solving community problems. In 2011, they gave an estimated $4.2 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.

Where do community foundations operate?

More than 700 community foundations operate in urban and rural areas in every state in the United States; currently, nearly 600 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.

What do donors get from having a fund in a community foundation?

Donors can help design gift plans that achieve their philanthropic passions, meet diverse economic situations, and maximize their tax deductions. They also can take advantage of briefings on important issues from foundation staff, get advice on particular charities, and become part of a charitable community that increases their effectiveness and impact.

How do community foundations acquire charitable assets?

Charitable funds are set up in community foundations by both individuals and institutions. They can be established with a wide variety of assets—including cash, real estate, stock, and artwork. Gifts come from living donors and through wills. In the United States, community foundations hold approximately $49.5 billion in assets. In 2011, they received an estimated $4.5 billion in donations from individuals, corporations, government agencies, and other foundations.