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.

A Zimbabwean farmer proudly presents the community market garden

Community Foundation for the Western Region of Zimbabwe

A Zimbabwean farmer proudly presents the community market garden funded by a grant from the Community Foundation for the Western Region of Zimbabwe. The grant enables a local community to provide food for the community and generate income from the sales of its crop.


Most community foundations benefit from international connections.

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.