About Community Foundations

What is a community foundation?

A community foundation is a public grantmaking charity that raises funds from a variety of sources, with the aim of building an endowment as a permanent resource for a local community.

In the Global Status Report 2008, WINGS articulated that the principal characteristics of a community foundation were:

  • to seek to improve the quality of life for all people in a defined geographic area;
  • to be independent from control or influence by other organizations, governments or donors;
  • to be governed by a board of citizens broadly reflective of the communities they serve;
  • to make grants to other nonprofit groups to address a wide variety of emerging and changing needs in the community;
  • to seek to build a permanent resource for the community, most often through the creation of endowed funds from a wide range of donors, including local citizens, corporations, governments, and other foundations and nonprofits;
  • to provide services to donors to help them achieve their philanthropic goals;
  • to engage in a broad range of community leadership and partnership activities, serving as catalysts, convenors, collaborators and facilitators to solve problems and develop solutions to important community issues;
  • to have open and transparent policies and practices concerning all aspects of their operations; and
  • to be accountable to the community by informing the general public about their purposes, activities, and financial status on a regular basis.

Not all of these characteristics are necessarily present at the same time for all community foundations.

Local women attend a computer literacy class in Mexico

Anat Kah, Mayan Riviera Community Foundation

Local women attend a computer literacy class. The Mayan Riviera Community Foundation supports the project that educates women for better access to higher paid jobs.

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The assets of community foundations in the United States are seventeen times greater than the next largest country - Canada.

The Community Foundation for Ireland

This nationally based community foundation is addressing key social issues through its Impact Grants Programme. The first National LGBT Helpline, a confidential telephone support service for Ireland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, was established after a need for it was identified through the foundation’s grassroots grantmaking activity.

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