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What is a Community Foundation?

Community foundations place the power of philanthropy with everyday citizens, all of whom share a common interest: improving the quality of life in our community.

Hands holding a budding plant in soil.A foundation for the rest of us

Community foundations are a purely American invention that began way back in 1914 a mere 40 miles to our north in Cleveland.

Today, there are at least 700 community foundations in the United States, with 66 in Ohio alone. The community foundation model has spread throughout the world.

What makes them special? Four things:

  1. They are geographically based and specifically serve the charitable people, companies and nonprofits of their locale.
  2. They help people with modest assets become philanthropists through named endowment funds. People can support the causes and organizations they care about while guaranteeing their charitable legacy in our community. (You don’t have to be a Rockefeller or Bill Gates to be a philanthropist!)
  3. As a community-governed, permanently endowed nonprofit, they offer stability and independence like no other entity in town: commercial, nonprofit or government.
  4. They are public charities, meaning assets reflect a broad cross-section of donors, not just a select few. Public charities offer a greater tax advantage on your gifts than do private foundations.

What we have in common

While community foundations understandably differ in their individual operations, the Council on Foundations, the nation’s professional association of foundations, has outlined six characteristics of community foundations:

  • Flexible, yet permanent collection of funds supported by a wide range of donors
  • Relative independence to determine the best use of those funds to meet community needs
  • Governing board of volunteers knowledgeable about their community and recognized for their involvement in civic affairs
  • Commitment to provide leadership on pervasive community problems
  • Commitment to assist donors to identify and attain their philanthropic goals
  • Adherence to a sense of community that overrides individual interests and concerns
 

Akron is among the elite

The Council on Foundations evaluates its member community foundations through a comprehensive National Standards certification process. Akron Community Foundation is proud to have been one of the first community foundations to be nationally certified.