What is a Community Foundation
Community Foundations (sometimes referred to simply as CF’s) are organizations which serve to co-ordinate investments and give out grants within the community, generally within a specific geographical area. Typically they serve quite a large region, either a city, a county or a region, and many of them are in charge of enormous sums of money (over $1,000,000,000 – yes, a billion dollars).
History of the Community Foundation
The first community foundation was organized by Frederick Goff in Cleveland in 1914, this still operates as the Cleveland Foundation. Others soon followed around the United States and Canada, and there are now said to be more than 700 community foundations in the United States, and 1400 around the world.
Role of a Community Foundation
Community foundations have several specific functions within their allocated community. These are their main characteristics:
- Give out grants in support of development projects
- Improve the quality of life within their community
- To serve the community – whether this is a city, a state, a region, a district or a province
- They are supported by a broad spectrum of both private and public donors with the majority of their contributions coming from inside the community
- They are each governed by local boards which are chosen to reflect the community they serve
- They build capital endowment as an important method of sustainability
The way it generally works, is that local businesses, families, individuals and other non-profit groups can set up and establish funds within the community foundations, and then they contribute money or assets which are used for various charitable purposes. The organizations or individuals who have established the funds then have the opportunity to recommend where the grants are distributed within the community, either anonymously or in the name of their fund. This way they can have some input into how the funds are distributed, to local schools or other non qualifying profit groups for example. A good foundation can help you with many things such as the arts, sports leagues for children and even burial insurance planning.
Community foundations these days are increasingly hosting what are known as “giving circles” to distribute the money. Giving circles are really a new invention of a traditional charitable concept, mostly made up of women, they come in many different sizes from just a handful of members to a few hundred, and together they vote to choose an organization which they would like to support.
The amount of money which is given out in these grants is pretty mind blowing really. There are seven community foundations who each gave out more than $100 million in grants in the previous year, that can certainly help a lot of the less fortunate people in the community, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Large Community Foundation Grants
- Silicon Valley Community Foundation – $243 million
- California Community Foundation – $216 million
- Greater Kansas City Community Foundation – $192.9 million
- New York Community Trust – $166 million
- Chicago Community Trust – $115.5 million
- Columbus Foundation – $110.7 million
- Foundation for the Carolinas – $106 million
I think you’ll agree, that’s a lot of dosh by anybody’s standards!
List of Community Foundations by State