Community Foundations

Community Foundations help guide volunteer efforts and financial support to where it will have the greatest impact in a specific community.  They are designed to pool donations into a coordinated investment and grant-making facility, dedicated to the social improvement of a given place.  Endowments of the Community Foundation limit distributions to the interest earned on the initial investment or donation.  This initial investment (corpus) is not spent, allowing the endowment to last in perpetuity.  Community foundations are a global phenomenon with 1700 in existence around the world.

goff-historyThe first community foundation was created in Cleveland in 1914 by Frederick Goff.  Goff’s revolutionary idea was to develop a “community trust” by pooling the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists into a single, great, and permanent endowment for the betterment of the city. Community leaders would then forever distribute the interest that the trust’s resources would accrue to fund “such charitable purposes as will best make for the mental, moral, and physical improvement of the inhabitants of Cleveland.”*

Within a decade, that idea had created a global movement.  The first Community Foundation in Canada was established in Winnipeg in 1921.  There are currently 191 active Community Foundations in Canada.

A description of Community Foundations, excerpted from Wikipedia:

Community foundations are independent registered philanthropic institutions serving geographically defined territory, typically a city or administrative area (county, region and the like). The six main characteristics of the CFs are:

  1. Act as grant-making foundations – e.g. give grants to support development projects
  2. Their mission broadly defined (e.g. to improve quality of life in a community)
  3. Serve geographically defined communities – a city, state, region, district or province
  4. Are supported by a broad range of private as well as public donors and seek philanthropic contributions primarily from inside the community
  5. Are governed by multi-sectoral local boards reflecting the community
  6. Build capital endowment, which is an important element of sustainability

It is a combination of all these basic characteristics what makes true CF, although there are many other types of community organizations that have some of these characteristics.

Families, individuals, businesses, and nonprofit groups establish funds within community foundations into which they can contribute a variety of assets to be used for charitable purposes. The people or organizations that establish the funds can then recommend that grants be distributed, in the name of the fund or anonymously, to qualified nonprofit groups and schools.

*Source: The Cleveland Foundation History www.clevelandfoundation.org

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