Community Engagement and Participation

Community foundations saw community engagement as a central feature of their work.

Extent of community engagement

(Activity area by score)

Chart illustrating community engagement and participation

Explanation of chart

People were asked to rate the extent to which they met various criteria of community engagement. Responses were classed as 'high' (score 3), 'medium' (score 2), or 'low' (score 1).

The chart shows the mean scores. On all criteria, scores are medium to high. Further investigation revealed that the levels of community engagement were similar across the world, with no significant differences between continents.


The Dalia Community Foundation, based in Palestine, 'gives all of its decision making to communities'. The Foundation's role is to facilitate transparent and accountable processes and to promote philanthropy. It sees itself as accountable to the community, not to external donors.

Similarly, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland runs programs for politically motivated ex-prisoners, and the former prisoners have a big say in the grants awarded under the program.

In Ukraine, Ednannia (Joining Forces) reported on a survey that they had done. Only 3 of 37 community foundations admitted that they do not monitor community needs (and even these ones plan to start such monitoring in the near future). The monitoring tools include: surveys (questioning, phone and sociological interviews), dedicated meetings, and focus groups. The most creative monitoring tools include: analysis of local budget lines and participation in sessions of local councils, public hearings, phone hot-lines, content analysis of local media, listening, Internet-based questioning, and complaints and proposals book.

Instituto Comunitario Grande Florianopolis (ICom) in Brazil organized and convened a meeting with more than 75 local NGOs to elaborate a collective proposal to improve the relationship between local government and NGOs. The proposal was discussed with each candidate running for City Mayor.

The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County played an important role in a downtown revitalization initiative to rebuild 'the Commons' (an enclosed city park and gathering place). A 'Save the Commons' Committee was formed, T-shirts supporting the Commons were ordered, and posters were distributed. Volunteers organized petitions. The Committee set up a 'remonstrance procedure' to collect signatures of registered voters and tax payers. The side with the most votes would win, which the Committee did, and the Commons was saved.

Some community foundations were subject to constraints that meant that they found engaging with the community difficult. One explained:
"We do not operate in a western democracy, and all activity deemed political is absolutely banned. We have undertaken an extensive research program in community needs and aspirations that shapes our grantmaking priorities. This is the best and safest way of showing people that we have listened and understood."

Where next

We explore small grants on the next page.