A community foundation is a tax-exempt, independent, nonprofit organization that provides support — primarily for the needs of the geographic community or region where it is based — from funds that it maintains and administers on behalf of multiple donors. They are governed by a volunteer board of directors of community leaders and most employ professional staff.
Community Foundations are a type of hybrid nonprofit possessing the characteristics of both a public charity and a private foundation. Like a public charity, community foundations seek support from the general public, and like a private foundation, they also provide grants for charitable purposes.
The common mission of every community foundation is to enhance the quality of life in the local area. They carry out this broad mission by building permanent endowment funds as well as non-endowed funds established by local individuals, families, businesses, or charitable institutions.
Most community foundations manage and/or administer:
- Donor advised funds, on behalf of individual donors
- Field of interest funds to benefit a broad area of interest or programming
- Agency funds, on behalf of smaller public charities
- Fiscal sponsorship for fledgling nonprofits or short-term projects and programming
- Scholarship funds, on behalf of individual donors
- Technical assistance/training programs for nonprofits
Each fund managed by a community foundation may have a special purpose, but ultimately the foundation board of directors, representing the community, oversees them all.