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.


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.


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

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 number of community foundations across the world has almost doubled in the past 10 years.

Ukrainian community foundations

Ukrainian community foundations almost never have endowments, as the very concept of endowment was not settled legislatively in Ukraine until very recently. There are currently no enabling economic preconditions for long-term investment in Ukraine. These foundations predominantly provide micro-grants under $1,000 USD.