What is a Community Foundation?
Community foundations are independent, volunteer-driven, charitable organizations that aim to strengthen their communities by facilitating philanthropy, by partnering with donors to build permanent endowments and other funds from which they support community projects, and by providing leadership on issues of broad community concern.
Founded on trust, community foundations help donors achieve their charitable goals and invest financial capital in their communities. They also stimulate and nurture the relationships that link us to others and that create our sense of belonging to a community. Social scientists call these vital connections "social capital" and have found that they are linked to many measures of community and individual well-being. Community foundations, experienced in building financial capital for their communities, also have a leadership role in building social capital - the glue that holds communities together.
Some special strengths include a long-term view, permanence, community-based, personalized donor service, a broad perspective, commitment to community service, and accountability.
The Three Roles of Community Foundations
All community foundations combine three main roles:
- Endowment building and flexible, comprehensive donor services
- Broad and effective grant making
- Inclusive community leadership
Yet, every community foundation is unique in the way it fulfills these roles and in the priority it places on each area. The emphasis on each role also can vary at different times in a community foundation's development. As they work toward fully implementing all three roles, individual community foundations will reflect each role to a different degree.