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.

The migrant community of Manakau in New Zealand performs in a band

Manakau Community Foundation

The migrant community of Manakau in New Zealand performs in a band. Music is a way to connecting to each other and to communicate with their new community. The Manakau Community Foundation supports this activity with a grant.


The growth of community foundations in Europe has been spectacular.

Puerto Rico Community Foundation

This foundation recently held an ecomonic round-table discussion that led to the creation of an initiative to promote community entrepreneurship and support to the more than 20,000 people from the public and private sectors who lost their jobs in 2009.