Roles of 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.

The advantage of the community foundation approach is that it taps wealth that already exists in the community and harnesses it for public benefit. This gives the community access to resources that it controls.

As a locally driven organization, community foundations are driven by local needs, demands and interests, so that the roles that they play vary considerably from place to place. However, there are six commonly occurring roles that community foundations play in their communities.

Making grants

Almost all community foundations make grants to community organizations and civil society organizations to pursue some aspect of public benefit.

More than money

Most community foundations regard themselves as having a role over and above their grantmaking, delivering programs, offering technical assistance, and raising consciousness about issues of local public concern.

Resource development

Many community foundations take part with others in raising money for their communities, finding and supporting donors for a range of issues of public benefit.

Convening and leading

Many community foundations develop partnerships with public, private and voluntary organizations to bring change that local people want to see in their communities.

Information

Many community foundations provide information about the quality of life in their communities, important trends and action needed to develop solutions that local people want.

Advocacy

Some community foundations support campaigns to improve the quality of life conditions in their communities.

Russian community foundation practitioners working together on evaluation

Russian Community Foundations

Seven Community Foundations in Russia learn how to better evaluate their work and create more impact, thanks to a grant from CAF Russia.

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We found that support to community foundations was highly available in North America but much less so in Africa.

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.

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