The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in 10 languages!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters was first published in English in June 2013. Since then, and thanks to the efforts of partners in the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy, it has been translated into 10 languages, including Arabic, Haitian Creole, Turkish and Ukranian.

See the other languages

For further information on getting the report translated into other languages, please contact Wendy Richardson at the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

Small grants make big differences globally: Mott Foundation profiles GFCF

The Mott Foundation has been one of the GFCF’s biggest supporters since the Fund was established in 2006. For more than three decades Mott has funded organizations, initially in the U.S. and now globally, that help develop and strengthen the community foundation field.

As part of an occasional series about the community foundation field and the Mott Foundation’s role in supporting and strengthening it, Mott highlights the work of the GFCF and its partners around the world in a new slideshow. The series reports on what is occurring in Mott’s major geographic focus areas — Central/Eastern Europe and Russia, South Africa, and the U.S. — as well as providing information about how the field is expanding globally. Mott’s goal is to inform the public about the latest trends in the community foundation field in advance of its 100th anniversary year in 2014.

See the slideshow



Palestine, Russia & South Africa: community foundations on film

Watch Nora Murad’s interview with Executive Director of Dalia Association, a Palestinian community foundation. In Nora’s words, “I recorded this short video with Saeeda Mousa, Executive Director of Dalia Association. In it, she talks about the amazing potential return on investment in the Palestinian community, but it’s not the type of investment that you might be thinking of!”

From Russia, a short, haunting and heart-warming film about a small and desolate community in Russia’s remote Primorski Krai which tells what happened when a Russian sailing frigate called “Hope” came to town.  And how the local community foundation, which serves Plastun’s 5,000 residents and is a partner of the GFCF, has also played its role in working to restore hope in a community where it has been long-lost… (in English, with Russian sub-titles)

And from South Africa Watch the final episode in the story of a partnership between the West Coast Community Foundation (South Africa), the Community Foundation for West Flanders (Belgium) and MyMachine (Belgium) and supported by the GFCF.

De Slotshow – The Unveiling from MyMachine on Vimeo.


From Russia, a short, haunting and heart-warming film about a small and desolate community in Russia’s remote Primorski Krai which tells what happened when a Russian sailing frigate called “Hope” came to town.  And how the local community foundation (which serves Plastun’s 5,000 residents) has also played its role in working to restore hope in a community where it has been long-lost… (in English, with Russian sub-titles)

Youth and community philanthropy: reflecting on the GFCF’s Youth Civic Engagement Programme

In 2010, the GFCF made its first grants under a new programme targeted at community foundations working with young people. One of the reasons behind our decision to introduce a focus on a particular issue like youth was that all the data collected over four years of grantmaking had pointed to the fact that well over half of our community foundation constituents had some kind of youth programme. What made community foundations and youth such a natural partnership, we wondered? How were community foundations engaging with young people – as donors, as partners, as decision-makers, as beneficiaries? And was there a distinct value that community foundations – and other community philanthropy institutions – brought to bear in engaging with young people which was distinct from that of other types of youth development organizations?

Well, two years on and we’ve made grants to some 30 organizations, co-hosted one global peer learning event, held two webinars and produced some resource materials too. And through our grants and our convenings we’ve begun to see some interesting results. They include some broad findings across the cohort: for example, from data collected through our grantmaking (both applications and reports) we have seen how our community foundation partners are particularly interested in engaging young people as decision-makers or leaders. And we have also seen some specific outcomes and developments which include:

–        A strong interest in YouthBank: YouthBank offers a unique way of involving young people in grant-making within their local communities and it has proved particularly popular among community foundations. A number of our YCE grant partners already have or are interested in establishing YouthBanks (or something similar).  A webinar on the subject (at which Simona Serban from Cluj Community Foundation and Vernon Ringland from Community Foundation for Northern Ireland spoke) proved very popular (and led us to produce a written resource on YouthBank, Getting to Grips with YouthBank). In September 2012, three of our grantees from Brazil, Moldova and Romania joined others in a workshop organized by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (which has recently received support from the Mott Foundation to establish a YouthBank Support Model).

–        Pushing new boundaries in the education sphere in South Africa: Our peer learning event in Cluj, Romania, in November 2011 also resulted in a new and exciting international collaboration between the Community Foundation for West Flanders and West Coast Community Foundation with the MyMachine piloted outside Belgium for the first time, in South Africa. The inventors, designers and builders of Scrappy, the recycling robot recently revealed their final product, the culmination of a project that brought together a primary school, a university and a community foundation to work in a partnership the likes of which had never happened in South Africa before.

–        The power of the local: The Nitra Community Foundation (Slovakia), which has been working successfully with young people for a number of years, used a grant from the GFCF to produce a film which follows the Young Nitra Philanthropists over the course of a year.

–        Meeting young people in online spaces: And in Brazil, the Florianopolis-based community foundation ICom (Instituto Comunitaria Florianoplis) has developed an online game, Conecta, which provides an opportunity for young people from all walks of life to engage in their communities. Conecta already has 200 gamers playing.

MyMachine: Scrappy the recycling robot, South Africa

Continuing the learning and sharing: SAVE THE DATE FOR OUR NEXT WEBINAR!

In 2013, the GFCF will once again pick up the youth theme. On January 23rd 2013 at 13:00 GMT, representatives from Nitra Community Foundation and ICom (see above) will be presenting their work with young people. The webinar is open to all and will be of particular interest to those working in community foundations and other community philanthropy institutions and / or working with young people. Details of how to register will be shared in early January 2013.

Support organizations offer great roadmap for community foundation field

This is the latest in an occasional series by the Mott Foundation about the community foundation field and the Mott Foundation’s role in supporting and strengthening it. The series reports on what is occurring in Mott’s major geographic focus areas — Central/Eastern Europe and Russia, South Africa, and the U.S. — as well as providing information about how the field is expanding globally. Mott’s goal is to inform the public about the latest trends in the community foundation field in advance of its 100th anniversary year in 2014.

Felecia Jones is quick to express appreciation for the support organizations in her professional field. Without them, she says, it would be difficult for staff at the Black Belt Community Foundation to tap the expertise and experiences of a variety of grantmakers around the country — and even the world.

“Our work would only mirror that of the other foundations located near us; those we had direct access to,” said Jones, executive director of the Selma, Alabama-based community foundation named for the region’s rich, black topsoil.

Fortunately — through interactions with the Global Fund for Community Foundations (GFCF), the Community Foundation Leadership Team of the Council on Foundation (COF), and the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF) — she has met other leaders in the field, shared ideas, and learned from them, Jones says.

Felecia Jones, BBCF, with Hafiz Jamu from Mozambique, Nairobi


Today, there are community foundation support organizations on six continents. While support organizations use a variety of names — associations, councils, federations, forums, networks, partnerships, etc. — they share similar characteristics.
Community foundation support organizations:

  • promote and professionalize the field locally, nationally and globally;
  • develop, collect and distribute resource materials for the field;
  • provide peer-to-peer networking and learning opportunities through conferences, workshops, study visits, electronic and social media channels; and
  • advocate for an environment that is fiscally and legally supportive for the field.

Many of these organizations receive support through the Mott Foundation’s Civil Society program, which has as its mission to: “strengthen philanthropy and the nonprofit sector as vital vehicles for increasing civic engagement and improving communities and societies.”

By providing services for community foundations as a field, support organizations — whether statewide, regional, national or global — offer opportunities that likely wouldn’t be available or affordable for individual institutions, Jones says.

Had it not been for serving on a panel together at a workshop planned by a support organization, Jones says, she never would have met Janet Naumi Mawiyoo. She is chief executive officer of the Kenya Community Development Foundation, which receives Mott support for its continentwide Africa Grantmakers Network.


The Grand Rapids Community Foundation commissioned Ed Wong-Ligda to create this mural called “Community Garden.”

“Even though Janet is in Nairobi and I am in Selma, my grantmaking story is more similar to hers than that of some other community foundations in the U.S. because of the types of poor and rural communities in which we work,” Jones said. “We have a whole lot in common and can share with each other what works and what doesn’t. I cherish our relationship.”

The three community foundation support organizations that Jones is affiliated with are but a few of the dozens that exist. Individually and collectively, these organizations — such as SECF, which serves 11 states — strengthen and unify the community foundation field at home and around the world. These organizations also make it possible for small-staffed community foundations to share professional services and reduce their operating costs.

The Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) was created in 1972 and serves more than 350 foundations in Michigan today, including community foundations. It has received $8.4 million in Mott support since 1976. CMF is praised for helping cut expenses almost 50 percent collectively for many smaller community foundations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula by combining back-end office duties such as accounting, data processing, etc.

Spending less on overhead makes more money available to meet community needs, says Diana R. Sieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GFCF).

Established in 1922 as the first community foundation in the state, GRCF has assets of $250 million and a 2012 grantmaking budget of $11 million. Sieger, who also is a member of COF’s board of directors and a past chairperson of CMF, says she has experienced the value of support organizations firsthand. She cited CMF’s statewide branding initiative in the late 1990s and early 2000 as an example.

After community foundations throughout Michigan started using the same tagline: “For good. For ever.,” the field gained a unified identity, she says, and individual institutions noticed a substantial increase in the way residents took ownership for “their” local foundation. The campaign was so effective, Sieger says, it went national and had similar success because residents in other states started identifying and connecting with their local community foundation in ways they hadn’t before.

The first formal community foundation support organization in the U.S. was created in 1949 and evolved into COF. Today, it serves as a membership association for a variety of foundation types — community, corporate, family, private and independent. COF, based in Arlington, Va., provides targeted services for the nation’s approximate 740 community foundations through its Community Foundation Services program. COF is a longtime Mott grantee and has received $11.7 million in Mott support since 1967.

Support organizations working outside the U.S., including those in post-Soviet countries in Central/Eastern Europe, are also Mott grantees. Many specifically serve community foundations; others serve several types of foundations.

Such organizations have advocated effectively for national tax law changes. For example, in addition to securing tax incentives for citizens who donate to nonprofit groups, support organizations in Bulgaria, and elsewhere, were successful in their efforts to eliminate taxes on contributions made by cell phone text messages. This is a popular way to donate throughout the region, especially following natural disasters. The end result is more money going straight to the causes, leaders say.

Meanwhile, in Western Europe, the London-based Community Foundation Network (CFN) also seeks ways to increase the amount of funds directed to local grantmakers from individuals, corporations and government. The national membership association serves 55 community foundations that cover all of Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. The network’s partnership with the United Kingdom’s Office for Civil Society is both practical and strategic, says Stephen Hammersley, CFN’s chief executive.

Stephen Hammersly, Community Foundation Network, UKThe network, which works to highlight and expand giving initiatives United Kingdom-wide, recently helped community foundations collectively secure more than $200 million (£130 million) in government funds through a $75-million endowment challenge that matched money raised from private sources and a $125-million government-funded grassroots grants program. The result was pots of money for many communities so they can address today’s needs and also those in the future, Hammersley says.

Globally, where there are community foundation support organizations — Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, the U.S. and elsewhere — there is growth in the field. In fact, having support organizations present is “the best predictor of new growth” in the community foundation field, according to research collected for the WINGS 2010 Global Status Report on Community Foundations, says Barry Knight, executive director of CENTRIS (The Centre for Research and Innovation in Social Policy Ltd) in the United Kingdom. He is an adviser for the South Africa-based GFCF, which is an international support organization, grassroots grantmaker and Mott grantee. Knight also has authored and collaborated on many reports, including the 2012 publication, The Value of Community Philanthropy, which was funded primarily by Mott and the Aga Khan Foundation USA.

With the growth of community foundations worldwide, he says, there has come a drive for standardization, which is often undertaken or overseen by support organizations. For example, in Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and elsewhere, the community foundation field has created certifications akin to seals of approval. This recognition is earned after organizations meet standards in specific areas, such as governance structure, resource development, stewardship and accountability, grantmaking, community leadership, donor relations, and communications.

Having national standards is necessary and often a point of pride for individual community foundations and their donors, says Sieger of Grand Rapids.

“Standards give assurances that funds are not being distributed by someone sitting in a room saying, ‘I like this organization, but I don’t like that one. This one gets money, but that one doesn’t,’” Sieger said. “Standards show citizens that community foundations are addressing key community needs, which were identified in an unbiased way.”

The availability of national standards also has meant newer community foundations did not need to reinvent the wheel, says Jones of Alabama.

“Support organizations gave us a great roadmap for how to create a community foundation the right way from the very start,” she said. “If they hadn’t worked with the field to develop national standards for us to follow, the staff here at the Black Belt Community Foundation would have been getting a lot of things wrong these past eight years.”

For more information on the Mott Foundation visit their website at

Guest blogger Alina Porumb: from Romania to the United States and is there a global community foundation movement?

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Council on Foundations’ Fall Conference for Community Foundations in New Orleans.

Romania has a growing movement of community foundations: there are currently eight active foundations and interest from another three communities. So how does a conference which brings together over a thousand community foundation practitioners from across the United States look from the eyes of a practitioner from Romania? Are there common themes when we look at the development of community foundations in the U.S. and in other parts of the world or are we actually talking about completely different realities?

Alina Porumb, Association for Community Relations

The first part of this article covers some of the key topics of the conference, as I saw them through participation in plenaries and some specific topics which I followed in the concurrent sessions. With limited experience of the U.S. community foundations field, I can only claim a sort of ‘tourist’ approach to my understanding on that side and more in depth understanding of community foundations in Romania and, more broadly, in Central and Eastern Europe.

I: Notes from the Conference

Stories are the soul of the sector. Look beyond metrics to the passion that drives this field

Stories are the soul of the sector and they are essential in helping people to learn about philanthropy, what it can achieve and the role it can play in society. At the heart of this conversation lie the people, ideas, initiatives and the differences that they make around the world, said Vikki Spruill, the new President and CEO of the Council of Foundations. It is about balancing process, metrics, measurement (the “how” of it) and passion, motivation, desire to make a difference (the “why” of it).

Yes, impact can be measured in numbers, but we should also look for the authentic soul invested and translated into hard work, ingenuity, compassion, connectedness. Then community foundations can truly become ‘foundations of community, centres for change, centres for hope’.

Business model and designing innovations for the future

Over the last few years, various concerns have been voiced around the long-term viability of the community foundation business model. They include the charge that is is not designed for sustained periods of market decline, the existence of more, better-priced, competitors and, finally, a changing definition of community.

According to Grant Oliphant, President and CEO of Pittsburg Community Foundation, it is time to ‘stop being shocked by the fact the there are challenges to the community foundation business model and value proposition’ and look at this as an innovation challenge. We should be less concerned about “quick fixes” to the revenue model and more focused on substantive content of the community foundation model, i.e. the value that community foundations bring to their communities, how they uniquely contribute, why that matters and who cares about it. In short we need to adapt to the context and imagine a way forward for ourselves. Indeed, it was observed, organizations that survive periods of disruptive innovations are those who reframe and act upon this reframing with a sense of urgency. A reframing in terms of the future we want to see and the role we want to play.

Donor advised funds and their strategic contribution

According to John Kania, Managing Director of FSG Social Impact Advisers, “the story begin 1931 with the New York Community Trust, which was the first community foundation that created donor advised funds as a way to make it easier for donors to give to the community during their life time.” Kania presented new data about donor advised funds that looks at the strategic value that these funds bring to community foundations (the study included 31 community foundations and data about over 6,000 donor advised funds). There are currently U.S. $14 billion in assets in donor advised funds and they represent half of community foundations’ grant dollars. For every U.S. $1 in planned gifts, there are U.S. $3 in donor advised funds. If ten years ago the conversation was about giving donors more choice and reconfiguring community foundations around donor needs, this has now shifted. ‘Now many community foundations see these funds as a gateway to deepen the philanthropic commitment, to inform donors about local needs and nonprofits and to find new partners for community grant-making and leadership’, observed Kania.

II. Reflections: comparing community foundations in the United States and Romania

The similarities…

I decided at the conference that if I take out the numbers (assets, years of history, numbers of practitioners, number of grants, number of donor advised funds, etc.), I feel pretty familiar with many of the topics of discussion and the challenges discussed.

Coming from an emergent movement in Romania, I see that the passion that drives the field is key, and that a fierce acceptance of the context with its opportunities and its limitations, coupled with a strong long-term vision are also vital. While issues of value articulation for community and other stakeholders are very important in the start-up phase, as our foundations develop I can see that it also becomes essential to focus on issues of sustainability and appropriate revenue models which can support the vision and values over the long term too.

Successful community foundations in Romania are using collaborative approaches and engaging other stakeholders in ongoing discussions around community issues and desired outcomes. We also face opportunities and challenges around engaging philanthropists – of all generations – and keeping them engaged both as donors and as community leaders. While these donors are starting to give, assets are not yet exactly “pouring in” – mainly because the model is new and still somewhat unfamiliar. And certainly, gathering more and better stories of community philanthropy and its contribution is vital in raising the profile and understanding of the movement at this stage too.

The differences…

Well, we’re back to the size of community foundations’ assets as well as the size of the field. However, it was interesting for me to find out that beyond the large and established U.S. community foundations, there are many of a similar size (at least in terms of staff) as you would find in the more experienced community foundations in Romania, with around 4 or 5 staff. While the conference highlighted how many community foundations in the U.S. are trying to look “beyond the numbers”, the numbers are definitely there in the form of data collection systems. For me it was impressive to see the degree of documentation of foundation practices and how there is a always a baseline which serves to informs the strategies of the community foundations field. Donor advised funds are not yet well established in Romania and in Central and Eastern Europe more broadly, and it was interesting to think about how they might be developed long term and also how important it is to see them as a form of partnership rather than a tool, mechanism or service. Also, I would like to see a strong documentation of practices and an equally strong professional infrastructure for support in Romania too, but numbers may be important here as well.

Perhaps the most significant difference is the long history of community foundations in U.S. and how most have been shaped by different influences over time (of course with the exception of newer community foundations). So new ideas emerge in a context of established practices and the experiences of what has gone – and I suppose this also means there is always the danger of reinventing the wheel and doing exactly the same as what worked before. However, change and redesign certainly seem to be key aspects of the community foundation field discourse: perhaps for us in Romania we are still learning for the first time, experimenting and seeing what works.


So, can we talk about a global field of community foundations or is the U.S. field so different and distinctive that the idea of a global identity is impossible? Opinions on these may of course differ, but my view is that the commonalities are stronger than the differences, particularly if we choose to focus on the community foundations value and role in community, on their leadership capacity to engage with and shape the context and on the sheer determination to make a critical contribution to communities over the next 100 years.

On the other hand, if we look at the revenue model of more established community foundations and sheer size of assets that they have, this may appear more like science fiction to community foundations in many developing countries. Those U.S. community foundations which focus their interest on growth, numbers and the revenue model might not find many opportunities to engage with the broader global field, as business models may be quite different there. But for those interested in community engagement, passion, leadership, stories of collaboration, empowerment and change, here we are and open for dialogue!

Alina Porumb is the Community Foundations Programme Director, Association for Community Relations, Romania

Mott Foundation profiles the global community foundation field

The Mott Foundation, a long-term supporter to the global community foundation field and an important funder to the GFCF, has published two articles as part of an occasional series about the community foundation field and the Foundation’s role in supporting and strengthening it. The series reports on what is occurring in Mott’s major geographic focus areas — Central/Eastern Europe and Russia, South Africa, and the U.S. — as well as providing information about how the field is expanding globally. Mott’s goal is to inform the public about the latest trends in the community foundation field in advance of its 100th anniversary year in 2014.

Community foundation = community leaders at home and abroad

Community foundation circling the globe

In praise of intangibles

Seventeen wells, nine dams, twenty-three kilometres of road, eighty-four institutions, seven thousand active members. There may be plenty of figures available to help measure the remarkable transformation of a community in Makutano, Kenya. But the process – supported by the Kenya Community Development Foundation and now the subject of a case study by the GFCF and Coady International Institute[1] – has followed its own, organic, largely unforeseen path, taking fourteen years to achieve these results, and the most significant changes may well be in the attitudes and perceptions of the eighty thousand people in the broader community. If there had been benchmarks and monitoring at every step, would Makutano have found and followed its own path towards success?
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Not everything that can be measured matters and not everything that matters can be measured.”

The growing emphasis among foundations on hard outcomes and measurable results may not be a bad thing. Foundations have often been accused of letting too many “flowers grow” and of investing too little in monitoring and evaluation, particularly compared with their bilateral and multilateral brothers and sisters. A culture of learning and reflection within an institution helps to keep it dynamic and responsive to pressing issues of social need. Indeed, over the last few years, conference sessions on this subject – previously relegated to the smallest meeting rooms and attracting only die-hard evaluation specialists – have invariably become standing room-only events. This sudden interest in evaluation reflects a growing awareness of the importance of measuring and understanding the impact of philanthropic investments. But it also suggests that while more and more foundations may indeed be seeking to introduce greater rigour in evaluating the impacts of their interventions, when it comes to the level of practical implementation many practitioners are still searching for the answers to basic questions about methodologies.

Who determines what is to be measured, what is an acceptable outcome, and over what time frame? Or as one development practitioner with many years of working in Africa puts it: “How do we know how many girls have been saved from crocodiles and hyenas when a new well is created or a path diverted from danger?”
Long-term social change is rarely neatly linear: it can be hard to separate out the multiple variables and factors at play, and to develop systems of learning and measurement that reflect these complexities, long-term horizon, and varying attitudes.

Clearly, certain types of development interventions lend themselves to relatively straightforward means of measurement: x number of vaccinations lead to an x percentage reduction in new incidences of a particular disease. But things become more complex when it comes to measuring some of the less tangible, more subjective drivers of development: levels of trust within a community emerging from conflict and division, for example, or the attitudes of young people towards themselves and their futures, or the feeling of ownership and involvement that is inspired when community members contribute to the solutions of their own problems. And yet these may well be key contextual factors in determining the success or failure of other development efforts. A library opened on the right street may reenergize and reconnect a community; on the wrong one it may serve to reinforce old divisions.

Swimming against the current tide of interest in big grants and hard outcomes is a growing group of local organizations – community foundations, grassroots grantmakers, women’s funds, and other local public foundations – which are working in and with communities. In Palestine, for example, when a local foundation – the Dalia Association – ran a small village-based grants programme where community members were asked to decide on how grants were allocated and were also the first audience for grantees reporting back, the point of the exercise was not just to achieve a particular result but rather to model an alternative scenario where community members were encouraged to be a part of and have a view on the kind of development they wanted to see, rather than be the passive recipients of it.

On paper, this kind of “intermediating” can appear costly in terms of ratio of grants made to operational costs, because in many instances local foundations have to work intensively with community groups to bring them up to the level where they are able to manage funds and implement projects for themselves. And yet, in many developing contexts, these organizations play key roles in transforming individuals and communities in fundamental but often subtle ways that are far below the radar of most international funders and their metrics frameworks. How, for instance, do you measure trust?


[1]  The story behind the well: a case study of successful community development in Makutano, Kenya, 2011

New report reveals a rich and vibrant community philanthropy sector in Colombia

An approach based on the Community Foundation 2009–2010

This report makes a quantitative and qualitative analysis of organizations in Colombia that are related to the Community Foundations concept. The report provides a general understanding of the state and potential of this movement in Colombia.

This report is the second of a series produced under the grant 08/09-LAC-02 between the Global Fund for Community Foundations and Corporación Makaia Asesoría Internacional ( The purpose of the grant was ‘To explore and assess the current state of community foundations in Colombia’.

Download the report

Go to the resource page

More information:
Catalina Escobar
Director, Makaia