FAQ’s

General questions

1. What is Community Foundation Network (CFN)? Established in 1991, Community Foundation Network is the national network linking, promoting and supporting nearly 60 community foundations across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

2. What are community foundations? Community foundations are charities throughout the UK dedicated to strengthening local communities, creating opportunities and tackling issues of disadvantage and exclusion. Community foundations target grants that make a genuine difference to the lives of local people. They manage funds donated by individuals and organisations, building endowment and acting as the vital link between donors and local needs, connecting people with causes, and enabling clients to achieve far more than they could ever by themselves. Community foundations allow donors to specify how, where and over what period of time their money is spent. Gifts of cash, shares, trusts, bequests and property are pooled in multipurpose endowment funds, creating a capital sum whose earnings address donors’ specific interests.

3. Where did community foundations start? The first community foundation was established in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1914. Since then, at least 700 have been established in the United States alone where they serve tens of thousands of donors and administer more than $31 billion in charitable funds.

4. Where do community foundations now operate? At least 51 countries now have community foundations, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Mexico and South Africa, as well as the USA and the UK. There are at least 1,440 community foundations worldwide.

5. How many community foundations are there in the UK? The first UK community foundations appeared in the late 1970s. By 2010 there were 59, of which 45 are quality accredited. Over 98% of the UK population has access to one. Find other Community Foundations in the UK

6. How do community foundations differ from other charities? Community foundations are unique mechanisms for giving to charity. Their flexibility and personalised services allow donors to specify how, where and over what time period their money is spent. Community foundations offer an opportunity to channel help towards meeting local needs and allow donors to see tangible results in their local community.

7. What funds do UK community foundations hold? By March 2010, community foundations held over £224.5 million in committed endowed giving. Community foundations offer a variety of funds: examples include a general fund for their area, plus several others funds for specific purposes, such as women’s funds, community arts funds or health funds.

8. How do community foundations finance themselves? All community foundations aim to become self-financing. Community foundations charge major donors for the grant-making done on their behalf. Donors agree that this costs less than the time and money that doing this work themselves would involve. Many foundations have members who pay an annual subscription towards running costs and/or do local fundraising. Some foundations have built up an administrative endowment to produce a stream of income, usually from donors who want to fund the development of philanthropy itself. In the initial stages of development, foundations often receive help from other charitable trusts that support the community foundation model and are keen to see a revival of this kind of philanthropy.

9. Are there any government links to Community Foundations? CFN is a strategic partner of the Office for Civil Society, taking an active role in its programme to expand charitable giving. Many community foundations in England were local funders for Grassroots Grants, a £130 million government programme running from 2008 to 2011. It consisted of a £130 million endowment challenge (with the government doubling or trebling donations) and an £80 million small grants fund. The endowment challenge created a lasting pot of funding. Many community foundations have previously managed government funds such as Local Network Fund, Neighbourhood Renewal Unit community chests, or funds from the European Social Fund. Several MPs and ex-MPs, including some senior politicians, are involved in their local community foundations. For example, Tony Blair is the Vice President of County Durham Foundation and has set up his own foundation, the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, managed by the County Durham Foundation.

10. How much do UK community foundations distribute in grants? Around £70 million a year. Many community foundations distribute well over £1 million in grants a year. Over £400 million has been distributed in grants by community foundations in the last five years. Combined, community foundations are one of the largest non-government grant-making bodies in the UK.