Community foundations

Agility in the duality of foundation and community

Authored by: Jenny Harrow , Tobias Jung , Susan D. Phillips

The Routledge Companion to Philanthropy

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415783255
eBook ISBN: 9781315740324
Adobe ISBN: 9781317579717


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Differentiated from either individual giving or endowed private foundations, the community foundation presence in organized philanthropy offers a distinctive opportunity to see philanthropy in the round: from the perspectives of multiple donors, ‘community’ and recipients. Although the definition of a community foundation is evolving as new adaptations emerge, the original model refers to an independent, publicly accountable grantmaking body that is controlled by community members, derives its funds from multiple sources – including individuals, governments, corporations and private foundations – and, through its grantmaking and leadership, seeks to enhance the quality of life in a specific geographic locale (Graddy and Morgan, 2006; Ostrower, 2007; Thompson, 2012). The core purpose of a community foundation can be expressed both philosophically and functionally as ‘an institution that seeks to be a central, affirming element of the community, foundational to the places it seeks to serve’ (Mazany and Perry, 2014: x). That ‘service’ is envisaged to cover a spectrum of ideas, including: being reflective of, and advocating for, a locality’s philanthropic needs and preferences; responding to, seeking, and supporting multiple donors for that locality; stewarding and distributing funding for community needs; and building bridges among different groups within a community (Daly, 2008; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, 2012). The way in which community foundations cast ‘community’ differs widely; it can range from very specific geographic locations, to more abstract ideas associated with ‘belonging’ and ‘sense of place’ (Jung et al., 2013).

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