8 Cool Things About Community Foundations

We may be biased, but we’re here to make the case: community foundations are cool. Community foundations work at the philanthropic intersection of individuals, nonprofits, corporations and local governments. How does that happen?

1.    Community foundations work with generous people of all stripes. Through a variety of services, community foundations give donors tools to leverage their generosity as an extension of their priorities. For example, here at CFHV we have funds that span causes, interests, faiths and more. Ranging from a bequest to provide support for the Heritage Foundation and the National Rifle Association in perpetuity, to a Donor Advised Fund that recently made a very sizable grant to Planned Parenthood. These individuals partner with us to benefit the community in ways that reflect their vision for the future.

2.    Community foundations know the community.  It’s right in our name. Each community foundation shares the mission of serving their region and its interests. Not only do we regularly monitor research and data on community demographic changes, economic conditions and social needs, we also hear anecdotal stories of real people in the community. We know the nonprofits in our region including their strengths and their weaknesses. We know the leaders, businesses and infrastructure of the Hudson Valley. We can research questions associated with a particular program or organization and we can help donors find a charity conducting the work that they value most. We live here, too – and are as committed as you are to making it better for everyone.

3.    Community foundations provide technical assistance to nonprofits in their community.  As a result of our grantmaking, research and community contacts, we develop relationships built on trust and transparency with fellow nonprofits. This enables us to provide advice to nonprofits on issues such as board governance, fundraising, planned giving and more.  We coach nonprofits, both in group settings and one-on-one on how to write more persuasive grant applications, both for our grants and for grants from other sources.

4.    Community foundations can create something out of nothing.  Well, not nothing, but we can create a bigger something out of many small somethings. A perfect example of this is our Partnership in Education grant program, made up of 19 separate funding sources. One of our donors, now deceased, wanted the payout from his fund to contribute to education of young people in the region. With an annual payout of approximately $100, his contribution alone would not go as far as it does once we combine it with our other sources. As part of a collective, his generosity will improve dozens of classrooms and create educational opportunities each year, far into the future.

5.    Community foundations convene people and organizations.  Community foundations regularly bring together nonprofits to investigate community needs and identify resources to meet them. In addition, CFHV convenes donors to provide information on community challenges and strategies to address them. For example, we brought together our donors to learn more about hunger in our region and how their support enables us to bring more local produce to those most in need.

6.    Community foundations help individuals and companies invest wisely.  Not only can the advice of community foundations help direct funds for best use, but there are financial benefits as well. Our services help donors bypass the costs and hassle of setting up private foundations, while also offering them more privacy (noting that private foundations’ giving and assets are publicly accessible and searchable). By partnering with a community foundation, there is additional benefit in pooling resources which are then jointly invested and managed for growth and long-term support of community need.

7.    Nonprofits can invest wisely, too. Community foundations also enable local nonprofits to participate in these investment pools – allowing them to take advantage of our well performing, low-cost endowment management. By pooling their resources with our endowment they get excellent investment service at relatively low cost allowing their boards and staff to focus on managing their programs rather than their investments.

8.    We give money away.  Our grantmaking averages approximately $3 million per year. While most of those grants are made through recommendations of our donors, we award approximately $500,000 through our competitive processes. These competitive grants vary in amount and focus to provide vital funding to nonprofits. The primary source of our unrestricted funding comes from our annual Garden Party. Speaking of cool - that means we throw a party, celebrate regional philanthropists and then turn proceeds right back to the community! Since 2000 these Garden Party events have resulted in over $1 million in funding.

Through comprehensive, creative and strategic collaborations community foundations address the challenges of a region; maximize the impact of generous donors’ intentions; and ensure beneficial outcomes for today, tomorrow and always. Made our case?
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