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Start or Grow a Community Foundation

What is it? A community foundation is a nonprofit that solicits, manages and distributes financial resources to improve the quality of life for the people in a specified geographic area.  Corporations, residents, and other donors contribute money to the foundation.  The donations are often used to build one or more endowed funds. An endowment provides a long-term source of funding.  Foundations manage the funds in an endowment, investing for long-term stability. , Annual endowment interest earnings are used to provide gifts and grants to local causes and groups.  Funds may be dedicated to specific purposes such as education or women’s issues.  The foundation helps deliver funding as well as other resources and expertise to those working to create a thriving place.  By allocating resources and serving as a catalyst for ideas, the foundation can play a significant role in community development.

How has it been used?  The New River Valley of Virginia has a longstanding community foundation that serves the four county region.  The foundation is focused on building a better community now while also making it sustainable into the future.  Its main task is to distribute funds, in the form of grants, that can go to almost any project that benefits the community.  Additionally, the foundation helps provide access to education for those in need of increased support through scholarships. The foundation distributes its money to support worthwhile causes in myriad different places and ways.  It has funded projects as diverse as transitional housing, afterschool enrichment, historical preservation, social services provision, and arts programs such as theatre productions. (Source: The Community Foundation of the New River Valley)

Further Reading

Community Foundations National Standards Board

Community Foundation Primer – Council on Michigan Foundations