What is a Community Foundation?

A community foundation is a tax-exempt, publicly supported philanthropic institution composed primarily of permanent funds established by many separate donors who have concern for a specific geographic area.

Characteristics of a community foundation:

  • Flexible, endowed and nonendowed, collection of funds supported by a wide range of donors to provide grants in all areas of charitable giving
  • Commitment to endowment-building and primary role of a grantmaker
  • Relative independence to determine the best use of those funds to meet community needs
  • Governing board of volunteers, broadly representative of the communities they serve, knowledgeable about their communities, and recognized for their involvement in civic affairs
  • Commitment to provide leadership on pervasive community problems
  • Commitment to assist donors (individuals, families, corporations, other foundations, and nonprofit organizations) to identify and attain their philanthropic goals
  • Adherence to a sense of “community” that overrides individual interests and concerns

Community foundations go beyond simply making grants that advance charitable activities. They also identify current and emerging issues, channel resources to address their communities’ needs and help their regions prepare for the future.