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.

Local women attend a computer literacy class in Mexico

Anat Kah, Mayan Riviera Community Foundation

Local women attend a computer literacy class. The Mayan Riviera Community Foundation supports the project that educates women for better access to higher paid jobs.

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In Asia and Africa, the legal and fiscal environments for community foundations tend to be unfavorable.

The Community Foundation for Ireland

This nationally based community foundation is addressing key social issues through its Impact Grants Programme. The first National LGBT Helpline, a confidential telephone support service for Ireland’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, was established after a need for it was identified through the foundation’s grassroots grantmaking activity.

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