Community foundations are place-based grant-making institutions that seek to broadly improve the quality of life and economic conditions in a targeted geographic area—think of them as a community fairy godmother. These local foundations raise and pool funds from public and private donors within a specific community or place. Among their activities, they make grants to organizations and projects addressing local needs, from affordable housing to health. Since the financial crisis, that has increasingly included job creation and entrepreneurship.
These place-based foundations have also increasingly moved into mission-aligned impact investing, making loans or investments via endowments or program-related investments.
The Cleveland Foundation is one of the best-known community foundations. In addition to being the nation’s first such foundation when it was created in 1914, it has pioneered innovative models such as the Evergreen Cooperatives, a multi-stakeholder partnership that has launched a series of worker-owned businesses in a distressed part of Cleveland, with the goal of building community wealth. Today there are more than 750 community foundations in the U.S., and a growing number around the world.
The Council on Foundations has a tool to locate community foundations in your area at http://www.cof.org/community-foundation-locator