What is a Community Foundation?

Community foundations place the power of philanthropy with everyone, all people that share a common interest: improving the quality of life in our community, now and forever.

Community foundations are grantmaking public charities that are dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined local geographic area – our region at the Foundation for MetroWest being the 33 cities and towns in our catchment area. They bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities and to make a deep and lasting impact there.

Today, there are more than 700 community foundations serving cities, towns, and geographic areas all over the United States, Including 17 here in Massachusetts. They make up one of the fastest-growing sectors of philanthropy in the country.

The Council on Foundations, the nation’s professional association of foundations, has outlined six characteristics of a community foundation:

  • 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