Responding to Need or Crisis

Supporting effective responses to local needs is at the core of most community foundations’ work. As the number of persons displaced by armed conflict or weather-related disasters has increased in recent years, some have also begun to play a critical role in responding to crises.

Addressing Mercury Contamination, Fundacíon FES, Colombia

Colombia is experiencing a gold boom, with tonnage increasing every year as large corporations and artisanal miners rush to capitalize on high prices for the precious mineral. Unfortunately, the practice of using highly toxic mercury in the gold extraction process, still followed by small-scale and unlicensed miners despite calls for its elimination, has made the Andean nation one of the world’s top mercury polluters. No one knows precisely how many Colombians have been hurt or died from contact with mercury dumped into their rivers and contaminating their soils.

Alarmed by a scientific report indicating high levels of mercury in Santiago de Cali, the country’s largest Pacific port, Fundacíon FES, with offices in Cali and Bogotá, brought academic and health leaders together with policymakers to formulate prevention, control and mitigation strategies. The planners conducted research into the magnitude of the problem in the country and marshaled technical and scientific information to underpin their intervention proposals. The study provided a solid base of evidence to inform public policy and action. Colombia’s Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development has taken up the cause, implementing pilot projects to demonstrate alternative processing techniques and supporting legislation to limit the use of mercury in mining that came before the Colombian Senate in 2013.

View Fundación FES Profile

Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction, Sanaburi Foundation, Japan

On March 11, 2011, the most powerful recorded earthquake ever to hit Japan sent towering tsunami waves sweeping across the Tōhoku region of Honshu, the country’s largest island. Nearly 16,000 people were killed, 127,000 buildings were leveled, more than a million other structures were damaged, and, most notoriously, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant experienced a fatal meltdown and radiation leaks. Japan’s prime minister deemed the devastation his country’s worst crisis since the end of World War II.

Recognizing the need to supplement governmental and corporate responses if Tōhoku were to be quickly and sustainably rebuilt, civic leaders decided to create a locally based financing mechanism to support relief and reconstruction efforts. By June 2011 they had established a community foundation, which they named Sanaburi, after the traditional agrarian festival held to entreat for a good rice growing season.

Sanaburi’s mission is to raise monies from domestic donors and international funders for community redevelopment. In addition to making grants and loans in response to locally assessed needs, the foundation endeavors to link nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurs working on rebuilding initiatives with individuals, charities and businesses interested in supporting the region’s recovery. In its last fiscal year it distributed US$4.5 million to advance projects and programs intended to measurably improve the quality of life of the region's 9.2 million residents. Because of the scale and logistical complexity of the 3/11 disaster, Tōhoku’s recovery is far from complete, but there is no doubt that the foundation’s efforts enabled government officials and civic leaders to mount a swifter response. 

View The Sanaburi Foundation Profile

Social-Media Crisis Management, Charity Fund “Young Community,” Ukraine

In Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2014, clashes between pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian nationalists left 48 people dead. Horrified that dozens of residents of what was essentially a European city could lose their lives to sectarian strife that would soon escalate into civil war, Odessa’s community foundation, Charity Fund “Young Community” (“Moloda Gromada”), employed social media throughout the night to offer moral support to the numbed citizenry. In the tragedy’s aftermath, the foundation conducted an online survey to gather information about the city’s “state of health” that might provide insights into how to prevent such incidents in the future. The latest of many such quick-response instruments the foundation has employed to guide its activities, the survey asked two forthright questions: “What did you personally do wrong, which allowed the tragedy to happen?” and “What steps will you take to avoid recurrence?”

Over the long term, Moloda Gromada plans to strengthen Odessa’s information technology infrastructure, especially in regards to the use of mobile media to encourage greater civic engagement and governmental accountability. The foundation also intends to enhance its capacity to partner with humanitarian aid organizations and provide conflict resolution services.

View Charity Fund “Young Community” Profile

“Surviving Winter,” Somerset Community Foundation, United Kingdom

More than five million households in England live in fuel poverty, a burden disproportionately affecting the elderly and the poor. Rising fuel costs in recent winters forced many of these citizens to choose between eating and heating. As a result of their increased vulnerability, more than 20,000 Britons aged 65 and older died in winter months than at other times of the year.

Inspired by a small group of supporters who wanted to donate their Winter Fuel Payments (a government subsidy automatically awarded to state pensioners and recipients of other social security payments) to the less fortunate, the Somerset Community Foundation in southwest England launched an appeal to channel funds to those in greatest need via grassroots organizations already working with this demographic. The campaign, which raised £57,000, helped more than 300 individuals stay warm during the winter of 2010‒11.

In November 2011, Somerset’s “Surviving Winter” appeal went national with the support of the Community Foundation Network (now UK Community Foundations). That winter, England’s then 46 community foundations raised and distributed more than £2 million. While not sufficient to eliminate all excess winter deaths and public health costs of treating weather-related illness, the monies were carefully targeted to assist households in crisis. Now entering its fifth year, Surviving Winter has demonstrated not only the capacity of community foundations to recognize and act on good ideas, but also how an entire nation can benefit when its community foundations pull together. 

View Somerset Community Foundation Profile

Building Trust and Collaborative Relationships

Because community foundations are typically perceived as honest brokers, they can be effective peacemakers, creating safe spaces in which factions can set aside grievances and begin to build productive relationships. A more common role is that of convener. When mobilizing communities to address problems or plan for the future, they can insist that representatives of marginalized groups are present at the table.

Border Community Alliance, FESAC, Mexico

At a time when the crisis situation on the U.S./Mexico border caused by inflow of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children has inflamed tensions and rhetoric, the Border Community Alliance (BCA), based in Santa Cruz, Arizona, and its Mexican community foundation partner, FESAC (Fundación del Empresariado Sonorense), based in the state of Sonora, are attempting to be a voice of reason, advocating for fact-driven policy changes.

To overturn what is actually an entrenched pattern of migration from Mexico and Central America, BCA and FESAC issued a joint statement on July 30, 2014, calling upon the U.S. government to refocus economic development and humanitarian aid and give first priority to North and South America. Such a policy overhaul, the partners argued, would begin to address the dislocations in Latin America—political violence, rampant crime and extreme poverty—that cause the northward migration.  “Comprehensive immigration reform must be combined with sustainable development policies and funding for basic needs including health, education, job creation and violence reduction,” the alliance and foundation stated.

Formed in 2013, the Border Community Alliance works with FESAC to provide accurate information to stakeholders at the local, state and national level about the impact of current immigration policy on individuals, families and border communities. Nowhere else along the 2,000-mile U.S./Mexico border from California to Texas will one find such a cross-border collaboration. The partners’ ultimate objective is to bring people on both sides of the border together to work on community development projects that will improve the quality of life in the border regions.

View FESAC (Fundación del Empresariado Sonorense) Profile

“Creating Space for Learning and Sharing,” Community Foundation for Northern Ireland

For 35 years, the organization now known as the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland has championed peace, equity and poverty reduction in the divided country, where religious sectarianism and segregation are still divisive issues despite the cessation in 1998 of armed hostilities over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Established in 1979 to help heal the wounds suffered by the Protestant loyalist majority and the Catholic nationalist minority during three decades of violent conflict, the organization (which became a community foundation in 2002) is governed by a board on which each group has equal representation. However, in such a divided society, it is not sufficient merely to be a model of social harmony. Bridge builders must provide a safe space in which former enemies can begin to break down barriers to peace.

In recent years the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland has, with the help of the International Fund for Ireland, led a conflict-resolution and trust-building program now operating in 30 communities. The “Creating Space for Learning and Sharing” program has helped these communities identify a peace-building project on which to work with the support of a small grant and a foundation-provided mentor. The Derry area, for example, launched the FORWARD (Focus on Reconciliation Working to Achieve Real Dialogue) project, which brought together different groups—the young and the elderly, republicans and loyalists, former combatants and former security force members—for face-to-face meetings with no set agenda other than to air their stories and  perspectives.

FORWARD has now completed a year of reconciliation activities involving thousands of people. All the participating communities are learning that peace-building may not be as difficult as thought and can pay off in improved cross-group understanding.

View Community Foundation for Northern Ireland Profile

“Dialogue in German,” Bürgerstiftung Gütersloh, Germany

The City Foundation of Gütersloh, Germany’s oldest community foundation (est. 1996), sympathized with the plight of immigrants struggling to learn German, a prerequisite for integration into the mainstream of their new homeland. In cooperation with the city library, the foundation organized formal discussion groups in which immigrants could practice speaking with others for whom German was also a second language. Moderated by a native speaker, the thrice-weekly Gesprächsrunden (roundtable discussions) covered a wide range of topics in order to help the attendees enlarge their vocabularies and get comfortable with complex rules of grammar.

Participation was convenient, as people were welcome to drop in without an appointment. According to the foundation’s program coordinator, attendees appreciated the opportunity to use their language skills in a supportive environment without fear of embarrassment. Those who persisted with the “Dialogue in German” program believed that greater fluency in German would enable them to overcome social isolation and barriers to economic success.

View Bürgerstiftung Gütersloh Profile

Modeling Transparency, Guangdong Harmony Foundation, China

Foundations in China are required by the federal ministry of civil affairs to meet two basic measures of accountability. They must publish an annual report and meet certain program-expenditure percentages. The majority of foundations do not yet comply, and the lack of transparency affects the ability of the philanthropic sector in China to earn public confidence and support.

By contrast, the Guangdong Harmony Foundation, one of the country’s earliest community foundations, strives for a high level of public accountability and trust.  Its website proclaims a belief that credibility is the basis for organizational and financial growth—a statement that is backed up by its ranking in the 98th percentile of the 2,500 foundations graded on the China Foundation Center’s “transparency index.” Established in 2009 to serve the Pearl River Delta region, Guangdong Harmony Foundation has advocated with local authorities on behalf of rural communities, migrant workers and other vulnerable populations (such as women, the elderly or people with disabilities) and supported a broad spectrum of community welfare programs. Outside philanthropic leaders who have paid site visits to foundation grantees come away impressed that the foundation truly aspires to be of the community and for the community.

View Guangdong Harmony Foundation Profile

Adding to Knowledge and Civic Discourse

Community foundations are often a source of new information, ideas and solutions needed for social innovation. They can help citizens understand larger trends and identify problems, conduct sophisticated research and analysis and serve as a catalyst or forum for discussion and debate.

“Munich Hums,” Bürgerstiftung München, Germany

The global die-off of honeybees and the loss of these critical pollinators of flowering crops has hit Germany especially hard. One-fourth of that country’s colonies have been lost. Although based in the nation’s third largest urban center, Bürgerstiftung München (the Munich Foundation) grasped the dimensions of this catastrophe. In 2011 the foundation helped to launch an initiative aimed not only at educating the public about this very real threat to the world’s ecosystem, but also at helping to restore the symbiotic relationship between the industrious Apis mellifera and humankind, much of whose food supply depends on honeybee pollination.

With foundation funding and guidance, a bee colony was started on the roof of Munich’s symphony hall, attended to by knowledgeable beekeepers living in the city (whose coat of arms, perhaps not coincidentally, prominently features the colors black and yellow). The number of new colonies established on prominent buildings has since reached six, demonstrating to urbanites how easy it is to integrate beekeeping into daily life. An informational website about beekeeping has been created and, with the Munich Foundation’s continuing support, schoolchildren have learned about honeybees by engaging in such activities as the construction of an insect hotel.

View Bürgerstiftung München Profile

PROACTION, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, United States

Sarasota County, Florida, is a nice place to live for well-to-do retirees. Not so for some families who were hit hard by the Great Recession. Because of the county’s relative affluence, there was not a strong safety net in place to help families with school-age children who had lost their homes. Local social service agencies knew of many cases of parents and kids forced to sleep behind shopping centers in their cars, but the problem was invisible to most everyone else.

Increasingly a champion of data-driven regional initiatives, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation recognized that educating the public was a necessary first step toward the development of solutions to homelessness. The foundation decided to publish a magazine devoted exclusively to the issue. PROACTION, a 12-page exploration of the causes and faces of homelessness, went through three printings, so keen was the interest in the foundation’s research. Sarasota County subsequently hired a new homeless coordinator and retained a consultant to assess where there were gaps in services for the homeless and recommend how they could be filled. Pleased with the constructive community dialogue sparked by PROACTION, the foundation began research for a second issue of the magazine, to be focused on food insecurity and nutrition.

View Gulf Coast Community Foundation Profile

Sugar Mills Research, Community Foundation for St. Vincent and Grenadines, Caribbean

Located in the Windward Islands, St. Vincent and Grenadines was colonized in the early 18th century by the French. The settlers grew tobacco, cotton and sugar on plantations with slave labor until slavery was abolished in 1834. Most Vincentians are the descendants of Africans brought to the island in chains, and some who later immigrated to America helped to establish a community foundation in their former home that has become an active partner in the preservation of the country’s cultural history and assets.

The Heritage Action Plan developed by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust highlighted the importance of the abandoned Argyle Sugar Mill, a once-thriving island business. The community foundation enlisted the help of the University of Hartford, in its headquarters state of Connecticut, to learn more about the mill’s workings. Engineering professors and students from the university teamed with counterparts from the island’s technical college to investigate the socioeconomic history, architecture and archeology of the Argyle ruins. Their findings are expected to become part of a proposed national history museum.

View Community Foundation for Saint Vincent and Grenadines Profile

Vital Signs, Toronto Community Foundation, Canada

Seeking to better connect philanthropy with local needs, the Toronto Community Foundation enthusiastically embraced the idea, advanced by a small group of civic leaders, of regularly producing a Toronto “report card.” First published in 2001, the foundation’s annual Vital Signs report is a data-rich diagnosis of the trends and issues affecting the city’s quality of life. In addition to helping the foundation and its donor-advisors target grantmaking on solutions to identified problems, each issue of Vital Signs has stimulated public debate and civic engagement. Individuals, companies, community organizations, universities and government use its findings as a roadmap for action.

Community foundations across Canada took note. By 2005, the replication of Vital Signs had become a national philanthropic initiative. Today, 46 Canadian community foundations annually collect and publish robust databases of community knowledge. Peer foundations in the United Kingdom and the United States have also begun to produce their own Vital Signs. They, too, have recognized the power of information to focus a community on meeting its challenges.

View Toronto Foundation Profile

Waste Management Education, Bombay Community Public Trust, India

Anyone who has read Katherine Boo’s book Behind the Beautiful Forevers, about trash-recycling families living next to a Mumbai landfill, can conjure a grim picture of the waste engulfing India’s most populous city, formerly known as Bombay. With its 20 million constituents generating up to 10,000 tons of solid municipal waste each day, the Bombay Community Public Trust has made waste management education the focus of its environmental grantmaking.

To promote general awareness, the foundation underwrote the research, publication and public distribution of a series of informational booklets on the theme of “understanding our civic issues,” which included two publications explaining the importance of solid waste management and biomedical waste management. The foundation also supported the creation of an interactive, multimedia presentation to educate schoolchildren and their teachers about the particular invidiousness of plastic waste, which takes years to decompose and releases potentially toxic chemicals as it does. Pre- and post-testing of students confirmed the effectiveness of the interactive presentation in teaching kids how they could contribute to the proper management of plastic waste.

View Bombay Community Public Trust Profile

Encouraging Innovation and Initiative

Masai Feeder Schools, Kenya Community Development Foundation

In Kenya’s Masai Mara, one of Africa’s largest nature preserves, the indigenous Masai who live and raise livestock in the preserve have long relied on stockades around their villages to protect their herds of goats, sheep and cows from predation. After wildlife killed several Masai children who were walking to a district school, villagers took quick action. They decided to build a feeder school for children aged six to nine closer to their homes. Acting on their belief that everyone can give something, the community raised $700 from small individual contributions and the auction of donated livestock. Still short of the needed funds, the Masai approached the Kenya Community Development Foundation, headquartered in Nairobi, with a request for a matching grant.

The Kenya Community Development Foundation was established in 1997 out of its founders’ frustration with the results produced by traditional, top-down development aid.  The foundation provides technical and financial support aimed at building the capacity of local people to transform their communities. Appreciating that the Masai had done their very best, the foundation awarded the matching grant. This expression of solidarity prompted other Masai communities to construct their own feeder schools. Four such schools have now been built, each with a boost from the foundation and each demonstrating what ordinary people can accomplish by mobilizing their own resources.

View Kenya Community Development Foundation Profile

New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger, Albuquerque Community Foundation, United States

The Albuquerque Community Foundation responded proactively to the news, announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in late 2006, that New Mexico had the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the country. The following year, the foundation made a lead grant of $300,000 to help activist Nancy Pope start the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger. Ultimately growing to more than 80 public and private organizational members, including all the community foundations in the state, the collaboration devised and funded a multimillion-dollar plan to reach food-insecure seniors and schoolchildren with new free breakfast and lunch programs, identify and fill gaps in the food systems of rural and underserved communities, encourage full participation in government food assistance programs and raise public awareness of the crisis.

The overarching goal of the hunger initiative—to move New Mexico from the worst to the fifth worst on the agriculture department’s annual food insecurity report—was achieved within the planned three years. Pope’s resignation and the economic downturn led to the collaboration’s disbandment in 2012. By then, New Mexico had moved out of the ranks of Top 10 most food-insecure states, and its citizens had proved that they had the strength and ingenuity to make headway against a seemingly intractable social problem.

View Albuquerque Community Foundation Profile

“Outings for the Elderly,” Community Foundation of Singapore

Singapore, an island city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s most affluent countries. It is also a rapidly aging nation, with persons 65 or older expected to grow from 10 to 20 percent of the population by 2030. Many Singaporean elderly, who are largely undereducated and unable to speak English, Singapore’s official language, live in hidden poverty. Those battling chronic health issues or dementia are especially isolated. With the support of a generous donor, the new Community Foundation of Singapore (est. 2008) set up a fund to alleviate the loneliness of housebound seniors by encouraging nonprofits to take elderly people out regularly on sightseeing and shopping trips.

“Outings for the Elderly” reduced the administrative costs of organizing such excursions by simplifying the logistical arrangements, which might otherwise strain the nonprofits’ financial and manpower resources, especially in the case of those organizations serving seniors confined to wheelchairs. Excursion organizers chose from a menu of prearranged transportation services and outing venues, such as the zoo, the national orchid garden and popular retail malls. The foundation also paid for the seniors’ meals away from home and even provided pocket money to enable them to purchase small souvenirs. Judging by the gratitude expressed by a single beneficiary, octogenarian Sellamah Bte Talib, who pronounced herself “thrilled” to be able to once again breathe fresh air and feel the sunshine on her face, the joy spread by “Outings for the Elderly,” now in its fourth year, has been incalculable.

View Community Foundation of Singapore Profile

Sustainability Planning and Action, Foundation for a Sustainable Texel, The Netherlands

In the North Sea off the Dutch coast lie the West Frisian Islands, the largest of which, Texel, with its charming landscape of tulips, windmills, dykes and polders, is admired as “The Netherlands in miniature.” To ensure a balance between the island’s ongoing development as a tourist destination and the protection of its natural assets and culture, the Foundation for a Sustainable Texel was established in 2000.

With half of Texel’s holiday homes expected to undergo renovation by 2010, one of the foundation’s first acts was to make detailed information about how to rebuild using environmentally friendly materials easily available to homeowners, along with recommended measures for energy conservation. Energy was again the focus of a foundation-produced study that influenced the municipality of Texel’s adoption in 2008 of the goal of energy self-sufficiency by 2020.

Phase 1 of the municipality’s energy initiative called for the implementation by 2011 of dozens of projects, including the creation of a pilot offshore wind-power farm. The initiative became a source of contention as the wind farm’s potentially adverse implications for tourism-related jobs and businesses became clearer, along with the need to take possibly landscape-altering action to protect the island’s freshwater resources from rising sea levels. To keep the long-range objective of energy self-sufficiency before the public and policymakers, the foundation recently co-sponsored a city council candidates’ forum at which contenders were asked to lay out what they considered to be realistic plans for “Work,” “Wind” and “Water” that could be achieved within a four-year council term. In the midst of controversy the Foundation for a Sustainable Texel has remained a rational advocate for responsible action on sustainability issues.  

View Foundation for a Sustainable Texel Profile

Urban Vegetable Gardening, Songkhla Community Foundation, Thailand

To enhance the effectiveness of its limited grantmaking resources, the emerging Songkhla Community Foundation frequently partners with public and private entities in Songkhla Province in southern Thailand on social-change initiatives. For example, the foundation collaborated with the provincial administration to present a series of workshops on how to grow vegetables in confined spaces. Conceived as a public health demonstration project, the workshops were aimed at urban women and emphasized having fun and sharing knowledge.

Attendees learned about the care of seedlings, soil enhancement and nontoxic pest control; practiced planting mushrooms and rice in rubber-tree wood; tested easy-to-prepare recipes for such dishes as “homemade vegetable delight”; and even fashioned vegetable grills out of plastic piping. If the practice of urban vegetable gardening spreads from the workshop participants to Songkhla city (pop. 162,000) at large through example and word of mouth, it might ultimately lessen the residents’ reliance on unhealthy fruit and vegetables grown with pesticides or lacking freshness after long journeys through distribution channels.

View Songkhla Community Foundation Profile

Stimulating Policy and Systems Reform

Because many issues communities face cannot be addressed solely through grantmaking, community foundations are increasingly playing a role at local, state and occasionally national levels as advocates for policy change. They also spur reform of inadequate social service, educational and governmental systems by helping local leaders develop strategies to strengthen performance and accountability.

Accountability of International Aid, Dalia Association, Palestine

Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank receive the largest per capita amount of international aid, but often feel they have very little control over these funds. Palestine’s first community foundation, the Dalia Association, came into being in 2007 in order to give Palestinians a “dignified and creative way to organize their resources toward collective self-reliance for generations to come,” according to one of the organization’s founders. The foundation has emulated many of its peers around the world by involving local people in decisions about the allocation of small grants. More atypically, Dalia has stepped onto the international stage to call for dramatic changes in the system of international aid.

Between 2008 and 2010 Dalia published three position papers that advocated expressly for Palestinian rights to self-determination in development. Dalia also joined a united effort to win the agreement of the international aid providers to align their development programs with a country’s development strategies, harmonize procedures to reduce transaction costs, coordinate their developmental efforts and create a framework for evaluating results. Dalia representatives participated in the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, in 2011 at which these reforms were articulated. The forum led to the establishment of a Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, co-chaired by ministers from Malawi, Mexico and the Netherlands.

View Dalia Association Profile

Documenting Math Course Misplacement, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, United States

Silicon Valley, California, is known around the world as a place of limitless opportunity. Yet, as the Silicon Valley Community Foundation discovered, too many public schools in its service area of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are blocking a proven pathway to success to young people of color. The foundation commissioned the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area to investigate why a disproportionate number of the counties’ African-American, Latino, Filipino and Pacific Island students did not enroll in higher-level mathematics courses needed for admission to California’s state colleges and university.

The researchers discovered that in 25 of the counties’ 54 school districts, educators had sole discretion over ninth graders’ placement in math courses. The other districts had policies requiring that objective test scores also be considered in the placement decision. In the districts without such a policy, educators frequently made the subjective decision to require students of color to repeat math courses they had successfully studied in middle school. In addition to its demoralizing effects, misplacement made it unlikely that these students would have time to complete advanced math courses.

Published in early 2013, the researchers’ final report, “Held Back: Addressing Misplacement of 9th Grade Students in Bay Area School Math Classes,” opened eyes to how many students of color were being systematically denied the opportunity to become college ready on their very first day of high school.

At a foundation-sponsored forum, Silicon Valley educators were briefed on the report’s findings and the legal ramifications of math class misplacements. Representatives of the Sequoia Union High School District were on hand to discuss how their district had implemented a cost-effective solution that eliminated such discriminatory practices. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation has called upon educators in the Bay Area and indeed throughout the entire state to implement similar measures. The foundation’s advocacy of universal college readiness contrasts sharply with the California Board of Education’s recent elimination of the requirement that all eighth graders take Algebra I, a necessary step on the path to obtaining a higher education.

View Silicon Valley Community Foundation Profile

“StreetSafe Boston,” Boston Foundation, United States

In the late 2000s, Boston, Massachusetts, ranked sixth among U.S. cities experiencing the sharpest rise in homicides among African-American males. The revelation that 81 percent of Boston homicides occurred within one of four neighborhoods prompted the Boston Foundation in 2009 to partner with the city’s mayor on a multiyear, $20 million youth development and safety initiative aimed at dramatically reducing gun violence in those neighborhoods. Recognized in 2010 as one of the nation’s “Bright Ideas” by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, the “StreetSafe Boston” initiative was based on the pioneering concept that the only way to connect disaffected youth with needed programs and services was through street-level interventions.

Supported by a $1 million annual operating grant from the foundation, which also spearheaded StreetSafe Boston’s fund-raising campaign, the initiative-trained corps of 300 street workers, all former gang leaders, began patrolling the “hot zone” neighborhoods, establishing personal relationships with at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 24. In collaboration with the police department and other city agencies, churches and community groups, corps members worked hard to connect young men with jobs, educational options, social and legal services, recreational opportunities and whatever else they needed to escape life (and death) on the streets. At the same time, police and prosecutors cracked down hard on the possession of illegal firearms, and emergency medical personnel focused on improving their response times for shootings. The concerted effort has produced results. As of early 2014, the number of homicides in Boston was on track to fall for the fourth straight year.

View Boston Foundation Profile

Sydney Women’s Fund, Sydney Community Foundation, Australia

The discovery of a child prostitution racket, operated by two former prostitutes in a neighborhood figuratively within the shadow of Sydney, Australia’s, famed harbor bridge, outraged the Sydney Community Foundation. Having recently awarded a $5,000 grant to a community center in the very neighborhood where the two women were victimizing young disadvantaged girls by luring them into sex work, the foundation experienced an epiphany. Grantmaking as usual would not improve the circumstances that blighted the lives of too many of the community’s women and girls. Determining that the best way to effect meaningful change was to mobilize the power of women’s philanthropy, the foundation started the Sydney Women’s Fund in 2007.

Underpinned by the foundation’s 10-year commitment to the recruitment of a large circle of engaged female donors, the Sydney Women’s Fund began to support grassroots initiatives aimed at helping vulnerable members of their gender achieve their full potential. To guide its strategic investments, the fund also underwrote comprehensive research into the status, challenges and aspirations of women and girls in Greater Sydney. The immediate objective of raising $1 million for innovative projects and programs that address critical issues and often-hidden disadvantages females face was upped to $3 million as women from all walks of life joined the donor’s circle. A $500,000 challenge grant provided by the state of New South Wales also helped to put the higher target amount within reach. State government backing advanced another important objective of the Sydney Community Foundation: to inspire the engagement of all sectors of civil society in this potentially transformative work.  

View Sydney Community Foundation Profile

Seizing Opportunity

Community foundations do not exclusively focus on solving problems. They also look for ways to help their communities make the most of advantageous moments. Via attentive listening and responsive grantmaking, they routinely enable people and organizations to transform their dreams of civic betterment into reality. Difficult times also present a chance for positive gain, especially when a community foundation is there to help to mobilize, counsel and sustain the needed actions.

Community Control of Historical Assets, Fundação Ilha de Moçambique, Mozambique

Fundação Ilha de Moçambique, in operation only since 2009, has already developed and taken steps to implement a visionary plan to address the impoverishment of the 16,000 people who live on Mozambique Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To transform the one-time capital of colonial Portuguese East Africa into a thriving tourist attraction, the foundation plans to acquire the island’s famous stone buildings. Though mostly fallen into ruin, the indigenous architecture of this former trading post on the sea route to India is a fascinating blend of local, Portuguese, Indian and Arab influences. The foundation plans to build a  portfolio of properties, which will be leaders to private entrepreneurs for restoration and ultimate use as visitor amenities, such as hotels, guest houses, shops and restaurants. The foundation’s share of the revenues generated will be channeled into grants to support larger social and economic development projects.

As a first step, Fundação Ilha de Moçambique, a membership organization open to the entire community, purchased a building large enough to serve as its headquarters, as well as a community center, information hub and meeting space for its member civic and cultural groups. Physical unification will amplify the voices of the local people, giving them a greater ability to guide the island’s redevelopment in a direction that will enhance the prosperity of all.

View Fundação Ilha de Moçambique Profile

“Making Bedouin Voices Heard,” Community Foundation for South Sinai, Egypt

The 40,000 Bedu who inhabit Egypt’s South Sinai Peninsula, a culturally rich, once-nomadic ethnic group, are among the country’s poorest people. Bedouin concerns are largely invisible to the state, as this population is undercounted in the census because of restrictions on their travel. The “January Revolution” of 2011, which raised Egyptians’ hopes of establishing a democracy, seemed an auspicious time to the Community Foundation for South Sinai to foster the political engagement of the Bedu. Established in 2006 by a group of British, Egyptian and Bedouin colleagues to promote small-scale development in Bedouin communities, the foundation launched an initiative that July aimed at “Making Bedouin Voices Heard.”

A foundation coordinator organized more than 60 community meetings attended by nearly 7 percent of the entire Bedouin population. These discussions of priorities and rights uncovered the fact that Bedouins’ desire to vote had been stymied by a Catch 22 in the law: They cannot travel to voter registration centers without identification, but can’t get identification without traveling. The foundation figured out how to overcome this logistical problem, enabling 4,230 Bedu to register to vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Twelve young Bedus ran for parliament, including three women, a hopeful breakthrough for a society that still largely confines females to their homes. Bedouin candidates won eight out of 12 South Sinai seats, giving Bedouin communities a means to make their concerns heard at the national level.

View Community Foundation for South Sinai Profile

“On the Table,” Chicago Community Trust, United States

Last spring, upward of 10,000 residents of the Greater Chicago area sat down to break bread and discuss the region’s future. In groupings large and small, they came together at the invitation of the Chicago Community Trust, whose leaders had decided to mark the centennial of the creation of the first community trust to give people who cared about Chicago a voice in shaping a civic agenda for the next 100 years. If a small group of Clevelanders could come up with such a great idea as a community foundation a century ago, imagine the inspirational value of organizing thousands of brainstorming sessions at which Chicagoans could share their aspirations for their community?

As soon as the “On the Table” initiative was announced, the Chicago Community Trust was overwhelmed by the number of individuals and organizations that wanted to host a mealtime discussion. Gathering on May 12, 2014, in venues ranging from community centers to kitchen tables, participants were asked to complete a brief online survey seeking data about their events and recording the suggestions generated. At last count, 6,000 ideas for civic improvement projects of all kinds had been submitted. The foundation’s publication of an online portfolio of “Inspiring Ideas” stimulated additional debate. Three to five of the best ideas were to be further developed in fall workshops, and others had taken off independently. Established in 1915, the Chicago Community Trust pledged to support the momentum of the most promising initiatives and partnerships in its second century of grantmaking.

View Chicago Community Trust Profile

Cultivating the Charitable Impulse

Community foundations stimulate local giving to the endowments they hold in trust for their communities through wise stewardship of these funds. Offering creative options for giving is another way to build permanent resources. Sometimes foundation leaders have to overcome considerable skepticism about the uses to which charitable dollars will be put before philanthropy can flourish.

Demonstrating the Value of an Endowment, Valmiera Region Community Foundation, Latvia

The concept of endowment was not widely understood in Latvia because of the absence of a supportive legal framework when the Valmiera Region Community Foundation in northeast Latvia was established in 2006. With few resources for grantmaking, the foundation sought other ways to be of service. It agreed, for example, in 2007 to administer the funds donated by concerned relatives and family friends to pay for surgery needed by a 12-year-old girl. Unfortunately, the little girl died before she could receive medical care, and her parents eagerly accepted the foundation’s proposal to use the surgery monies to start a memorial scholarship fund.

As the deceased had loved playing the violin, the income from the fund has been used to purchase a violin each year for a talented but needy youngster, who may keep the instrument as long as he or she continues to practice. Four violins are now in circulation, and the foundation has used the presentation ceremony, which takes place at an assembly on the first day of school, as an occasion to speak with the families in attendance about the role of an endowment. As a result of heightened understanding of its work, the Valmiera Region Community Foundation has succeeded in raising significant new funds for its endowment, which now stands at $100,000 and growing. 

View Valmiera Region Community Foundation Profile

“Heart-Land Giving,” West Central Initiative, United States

Farming is a way of life as well as a major industry in nine counties in west central Minnesota served by the West Central Initiative, a regional community foundation. Formed in 1986 to marshal local resources to address the region’s present and future concerns, the foundation has recognized that the well-being of rural Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin counties is inextricably tied to local family land ownership. To help ensure that this vital economic asset remains under local control, the West Central Initiative came up with a giving program specifically for farmers who wish to leave a charitable legacy and preserve their holdings as productive farmland.

Individuals who donate their farms to the foundation’s “Heart-Land Giving” program receive a tax deduction and avoid potential capital gains and estate taxes. They also secure peace of mind, knowing that the foundation will make every effort to rent the land to local agricultural families or businesses and that the proceeds will be used to benefit local nonprofits.

View West Central Initiative Profile

“Smart and Caring Community Fund,” Victoria Foundation, Canada

In 2011, Canada’s Governor General David Johnston issued a challenge to his fellow citizens. He called upon them to transform Canada into a “smart and caring nation, where all Canadians can succeed, contribute and develop their talents to their fullest potential.” The representative of Canada’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, the governor general announced that one of his goals was to see every Canadian served by a community foundation by the time of the country’s 150th anniversary in 2017. In turn, community foundations across the country enthusiastically embraced Johnston’s idea of starting “Smart and Caring Community Funds.” One of the earliest such funds was established by the Victoria Foundation in British Columbia in 2012. The governor general attended the launch.

A commitment of $200,000 by the board of the Victoria Foundation provided a one-to-one match of contributions to the new fund. At the time of fund’s public unveiling, the foundation had already received donations totaling three-fourths of the needed match. Half of the monies raised will support a new physical literacy program to curb obesity in children aged three to 10. The other half will create endowments for 13 charities on Vancouver Island, the foundation’s home base.

View Victoria Foundation Profile

Swimathon, Cluj Community Foundation, Romania

Established as one of Romania’s first two community foundations in 2007, the Cluj Community Foundation succeeded within a very short time in getting people from all quarters of the second largest city in Romania involved in philanthropy. By only its fourth year of activity, the foundation had already created eight different funds that produced a combined total of nearly $95,000 used to support 28 local initiatives and award 47 scholarships. The “U for Cluj” Fund, for example, raised monies for athletic programs and scholarships for children and young people in partnership with the city university’s football club. Individuals who wished to support arts and culture, productive hobbies, healthy lifestyles and friendlier neighborhoods could contribute to the foundation’s “In-Joy Cluj” Fund.

Swimathon, an international program that helps groups raise funds for social causes by mounting swimming contests, was adopted by the Cluj Community Foundation in 2009. At Swimathon II in 2010, 38 contestants eager to swim for their favorite cause obtained commitments for $19,700 in donations from 300 individuals and companies. At Swimathon III, 100 contestants raised $33,000 in donations from 500 individuals and companies. Swimathon III produced nearly a third of the foundation’s annual grantmaking income, rewarding its commitment to mobilizing the philanthropic spirit of the community.  

View Cluj Community Foundation Profile

Travelers’ Philanthropy Program, Monteverde Community Fund, Costa Rica

The Monteverde region of Costa Rica is known around the world for its mountainous tropical forests, teeming with rare plants and wildlife. However, tourism and its impact on the local economy and culture have stressed the region’s prized biodiversity. The Monteverde Institute, a nongovernmental organization working to promote sustainable growth in the region, seized upon travelers’ philanthropy, a resource-mobilization strategy used successfully in other parts of Costa Rica, as the best means to deal with the threats to the environment. After considering how to solicit donations from tourism companies and international visitors and redirect those resources to environmental conservation efforts and responsible long-term development, the institute spearheaded planning for a community foundation.

Established in 2011, the travelers’ philanthropy program has made the Monteverde Community Fund self-sustaining in a remarkably short time. Foundation staff are slowly but steadily enlarging its network of local and national business supporters and engaging with them as strategic fund-raising partners, rather than as “one-off” donors. On the programmatic side, projects ranging from water resource protection to stray animal control have been the beneficiaries of small foundation grants. Perhaps most important, local people, who have been involved in all aspects of the foundation’s development and governance, are learning about the power of philanthropy to help them improve their lives and preserve their precious natural assets. 

View Monteverde Community Fund Profile

Offering Programs and Services

Intimately familiar with the competencies of local nonprofits, community foundations sometimes fill gaps in civic infrastructure by starting and operating needed programs, providing missing services or taking direct action when no other entity is equipped to do so.

Administering “Community Benefits” Funds, Foundation Scotland

In Scotland, developers of onshore wind-generation farms voluntarily contribute more than £5 million annually to benefit communities in which their operations are located. In response to the complexity of distributing community benefit funds, Foundation Scotland (formerly the Scottish Community Foundation) conceived a stewardship model that gives local people control over the monies but none of the administrative headaches. The model was tested at a wind farm near Perth and Kinross. The foundation organized a local advisory panel to determine how the community benefit monies should be allocated and handled grant promotion, applications and evaluations; check processing; and record-keeping.

Impressed by the model’s simplicity and transparency, dozens of other communities throughout Scotland have since partnered with Foundation Scotland on the administration of wind-farm funds. The foundation currently distributes about £1.3 million each year to advisory panels that redistribute the monies to organizations ranging from parents councils to bowling clubs to pay for capital improvements, new programs and special events. Whenever possible, the foundation has won the energy company’s agreement to cover the costs of the fund’s management. The online publication Third Sector has recognized the foundation’s innovation with a juried award for excellence.

View Foundation Scotland Profile

Facilitating Carbon-Offset Contributions, Fondation de Lille, France

To mark France’s Sustainable Development Week in April 2012, the community foundation in Lille, the country’s fourth largest city, launched a Climate Solidarity Fund aimed at facilitating carbon-offset contributions. With the establishment of the fund, the first in France to be geographically based, individuals, associations, businesses and communities in the foundation’s service area are now able to compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions generated by their travels. Modeled after a similar fund set up by the City of Lille for municipal employees, Foundation Lille’s program encourages concerned citizens to use an online calculator to determine the amount of the offset contribution required by their latest trips to the office or store. A percentage of each donation to the Climate Solidarity Fund is tax deductible.

Foundation Lille channels 95 percent of the contributions into climate-change remediation. It is supporting environmental projects in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region instigated by a call for proposals jointly issued by the foundation and the City of Lille, as well as helping Lille’s sister city, St.-Louis, in Senegal, cope with flooding, coastal erosion, water salinization and biodiversity reduction. With assistance from French citizens who enjoy temperate weather (among other benefactors), the Senegalese are learning how to manage logging, rice farming and fishing in St.-Louis’s mangrove forests on a sustainable basis, thus stemming the release of tons of CO2 from the carbon-rich soils of deforested habitat.

View Fondation de Lille Profile

Supporting Best Practices in Organizational Management, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, United States

Strengthening the capacity of nonprofits to meet local needs is a priority of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, which serves a 23-county metropolitan area in north central Georgia. To ensure that its grantees perform at the highest possible level, the foundation provides support for management consulting services and leadership development. Nonprofits selected to participate in the foundation’s “Nonprofit Toolbox” work with a customized team of management consultants who offer the expertise needed to solve specific governance, operational or programmatic challenges.

The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta also underwrites the continuing education of nonprofit leaders. Its “Nonprofit Scholarships” program enables staff and board members to attend selected professional and organizational development workshops, seminars and conferences. By offering programs that promote best practices in organizational management, the foundation is strategically magnifying its ability to make a critical difference on regional issues.

View Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta Profile

Training Volunteer Reading Mentors, Bürgerstiftung Berlin, Germany

Each year since 2005, Berlin, Germany’s community foundation has deployed an army of volunteers to nursery and primary schools in three districts of the city with significant immigrant populations to help improve the reading skills of disadvantaged children. The foundation’s work to mobilize and train reading mentors began with a donation from a couple who wished to support literacy education at a single school. Recognizing that teachers in large classrooms cannot provide the individualized instruction needed by children who arrive with large language deficits, the foundation has expanded the reading program over the years to 17 additional schools.

Today, about 250 mentors spend one to two hours every week reading with children in small groups or, if necessary, one on one. The goal of this intensive interaction (which, in the case of nursery children, consists of looking together at picture books) is to improve comprehension and instill a motivating love of reading. During the summer, mentors attend workshops and seminars at the Education Centre of the University of Berlin and, in turn, provide feedback about their classroom experiences that is used by the university to strengthen teacher education. Had Bürgerstiftung Berlin not organized this remedial-reading program, the participating schools would be hard-pressed to muster the resources needed to help their students acquire the skill of reading.

View Bürgerstiftung Berlin Profile

Strengthening Local Capacities

Training, technical assistance, consultative services, research, site visits, benchmarking—these are among the tools provided by community foundations to enhance the capabilities of nonprofit organizations and governmental entities and thus strengthen civil society.

“Adopt a Neighborhood,” Jerusalem Foundation, Israel

In the midst of recent armed hostilities between Palestinians and Israelis, the Jerusalem Foundation issued a statement proclaiming its steadfast commitment to promoting tolerance and pluralism. Founded by Jerusalem’s legendary mayor Teddy Kollek to advance his dream of building a harmonious, prosperous, multicultural city, the foundation has worked for 50 years to improve the lives of all of its diverse constituents. With the help of philanthropic friends of Jerusalem from around the world, approximately $1 billion has been invested in more than 4,000 community-building projects and programs and initiatives in every city neighborhood.

Several years ago, the Jerusalem Foundation formally embraced a strategy of community empowerment, undertaking an intensive, five-year initiative called “Adopt a Neighborhood” to address all areas of inequality in four target districts with concentrations of immigrant or poor residents. Three years into the initiative, the physical and social transformation of such neighborhoods as Kiryat Menachem, located north of the city and home to a large Ethiopian population, was evident. A kindergarten, community center and sports facilities had been renovated, and new programs had sent needy children to summer camp, given families access to a “Toybrary” to facilitate parent-child interactions, created a coffeehouse setting in which at-risk teenagers were mentored and engaged seniors in community theater.

There had been clear progress, as well, toward meeting Adopt a Neighborhood’s goal of identifying and empowering local leaders who can achieve neighborhood-improvement objectives defined in cooperation with residents. Successful leadership development activities in Kiryat Menachem included strengthening the community council; providing training in entrepreneurship, conflict mediation and parental counseling to small cadres of adults; and mobilizing the participation of 2,000 of the neighborhood’s 17,000 residents in a “Time Bank” of pledged hours of community service.

View Jerusalem Foundation Profile

Civic Improvement and Engagement, Fundación Tot Raval, Spain

The Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, which lies within the Old City of Spain’s second largest metropolis, is just over one square kilometer in size. As a consequence, Raval has one of the highest population densities in Europe. Having been welcoming to successive waves of immigrants, most recently from northern Africa, Pakistan and the Philippines, this tiny district is also culturally rich.

Because Raval’s residents are typically starting their climb up the socioeconomic ladder, a web of nongovernmental organizations, collectives and associations has formed over the years to respond to the continually evolving social needs of the neighborhood. Fundación Tot Raval, which was established in 2002, quickly reached out to partner with and strengthen its civil society peers. In pursuit of its goal of engaging everyone in Raval in community development work, the foundation managed 25 civic improvement projects and funded 55 others in 2012 alone. More than 300 organizations and 5,000 volunteers were directly engaged in carrying out these developmental activities, which ranged from encouraging potential employers’ mentoring of job seekers to organizing an annual “Festival de cultura.” Tot Raval estimated that its 2012 grants and services benefited four-fifths of the neighborhood’s total population.

View Fundación Tot Raval Profile

Social Entrepreneurism, Fondacija Mozaik, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Economic development is among the toughest challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina, an independent republic located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The country’s persistent ethnic divisions, reliance on international funding and direction of its civil society organizations, and lingering perceptions about the all-encompassing authority of the state contribute to a lack of community development initiatives. In rural areas especially, which remain untouched by direct foreign aid or investment, poverty is on the rise. Fondacija Mozaik was launched in 2002 by a visionary Bosnian leader with advanced degrees in both business administration and development specifically to initiate economic development in rural areas.

Mozaik’s usual role is to provide financial and advisory resources, but the foundation has also started two for-profit companies to test the effectiveness of the development strategy of social entrepreneurism. EkoMozaik produces and markets honey, herbs, flowers and vegetables, and the MaSta Agency organizes large business events that emphasize the theme of corporate social responsibility. Together, the companies employ approximately 100 rural women of differing ethnic backgrounds who learn to overcome mistrust through teamwork. Company profits support the foundation’s ongoing efforts to promote entrepreneurship, reconciliation and social and economic development.

View Fondacija Mozaik Profile

Support for NGOs, LIN Center for Community Development, Vietnam

The LIN Center for Community Development, which began operations in Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of Vietnam, in 2009, has developed several creative approaches to strengthening public support for the work of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). LIN’s small-grants program is targeted at encouraging NGOs to address social justice issues weighing on the popular conscience. Examples include start-up funding of vocational programs for the children of rural migrants to Ho Chi Minh City, who might otherwise be subjected to exploitation or abuse. Its new website,, makes it easy for donors and volunteers to identify NGOs that share their social values and goals.  

LIN also sponsors an annual Matching Day that connects young professionals with opportunities to put their skills to use in civil society. By donating their services to NGOs, the volunteers gain experience relevant to their careers, while the organizations benefit from having additional helping hands to perform tasks or undertake work that might remain undone due to staff limitations. The foundation, which initially encountered resistance to its call to donate one’s time and talents, has assembled a large database of skilled volunteers that testifies to the rising popularity of charitable work.

View LIN Center for Community Development Profile

Doing Much with Little

Emerging community foundations with modest annual incomes and more established philanthropies engaged in grassroots grantmaking are proving that even small monetary awards can have an outsized influence.

Changing a Community’s Mindset, Community Development Foundation Western Cape, South Africa

The community organization’s grant request was for only $50, but it was declined by the Community Development Foundation Western Cape, which is headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. Having visited the organization and engaged in conversation with its leaders, the foundation’s executive director did not see the necessity of supporting one month’s operating expenses for the organization’s soup kitchen. Believing in the organization’s potential for self-sufficiency, the executive director suggested a different approach to feed the poor: Start a community garden for the township. The organization agreed—and received a grant for 12 times more than the original request to build two greenhouses.

Six years later, there are multiple community gardens in the township, located on the grounds of schools. They yield more than enough produce to stock the soup kitchen and school lunchrooms. Surplus vegetables are sold, securing funds for student scholarships. Inspired by the bounty outside their classrooms, pupils as young as preschoolers have begun growing or tending home gardens. Instead of writing a check that might serve to perpetuate attitudes of hopelessness and helplessness, the foundation changed the community’s mindset, thus empowering township residents to meet their own needs.

View Community Development Foundation Western Cape Profile

Crowdmapping Mirafiori Sud, Fondazione della Comunità di Mirafiori Onlus, Italy

Mirafiori Sud, the location of the first Fiat automotive manufacturing plant, skirts the southern border of Turin, Italy. The district has gone through several cycles of decline and rebirth since the plant opened in the late 1930s. Its historic park having been chosen as the site of several sports facilities for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Mirafiori Sud is again on the upswing. A partnership between the Polytechnic of Turin and Fondazione della Comunità di Mirafiori Onlus, a community foundation based in Turin, intends to make the district even more safe and attractive. The plan is to make free crowdmapping software available to residents of the district, enabling them to submit real-time information to public authorities about what’s happening on the streets.

With foundation support, a polytechnic research team worked with a group of 30 volunteers for six months in 2013 to field test the software, which is named Ushahidi, after the Swahili word for “testimony.” Ushahidi was first deployed in the aftermath of the 2007 presidential elections in Kenya to convey eyewitness accounts of the attendant violence via email and text messages. In Mirafiori Sud, the technology will enable citizens to send information about challenges they encounter to the safe enjoyment of urban spaces to a continually updated geospatial map of events and conditions in the district. The map, which will be accessible on the Internet, is expected to foster dialogue and collaboration between public authorities and residents by amplifying the concerns of the latter.

View Fondazione della Comunità di Mirafiori Onlus Profile

NGO Fair, Angarsk Community Foundation, Russia

Thanks to the efforts of CAF Russia, a philanthropic support organization, the community foundation concept has spread throughout Russia. The country boasts more than 45 community foundations, which have been established in big cities, small towns and even villages, in both the poorest and richest parts of Russia. Almost without exception, Russian community foundations have to work hard to engage people in addressing local problems. “When times are tough it can be difficult to think about helping one’s community, particularly in those rural areas which are in decline, wracked by high levels of alcoholism, poverty and often a general sense of despair,” Matvei Masaltsev, the editor in chief of, a CAF Russia–supported portal, has observed.

Serving a relatively new city (established in 1948) in a massive industrial zone in southeastern Siberia, the Angarsk Community Foundation has found an inventive way to overcome disinclination to give. Angarsk has adopted and perfected a charitable appeal tried in other Russian communities with less success: the NGO Fair. An annual fund-raising event, the fair showcases the work of area nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Each organization presents the details of a community development project for which it is seeking support, and the local people who “buy” a project receive appropriately warm recognition. Angarsk’s fair has been particularly adept at engaging the interest of local businesses in sponsoring projects because of its rigorous NGO selection process and strong marketing effort.

View Angarsk Community Foundation Profile

StarJam, Nikau Foundation, New Zealand

How do you change people’s attitudes toward people with disabilities? More important, how do you teach young people with disabilities that they can be accepted and respected? These were questions that New Zealander Julie Bartlett had as the loving sister of a brother born with Down syndrome. When her brother made a spontaneous speech at her wedding that moved many in the audience to tears, Julie found the answers. She decided to create opportunities for young people with disabilities to experience the thrill of performing and the joy of sharing their love of music and dance with others.

StarJam was launched from Julie’s home in Auckland. In 2002, the organization began mounting shows at which young people with disabilities, proudly dubbed “Jammers,” displayed their talents for performance before appreciative audiences. By 2010, StarJam was ready to expand to other New Zealand cities. A modest grant of US$3,200 from the Nikau Foundation enabled StarJam to set up a branch operation in Wellington, the community foundation’s home base.

Not all of Wellington’s Jammers go on to win New Zealand’s Got Talent, as singer Renee Maurice, who struggles with a heart condition, did in 2013. But all the local youth who participate in the free-of-charge program get a chance to develop their performing skills at weekly workshops in drumming, singing, dancing and guitar playing, build friendships at monthly Jammers get-togethers and gain confidence from appearing in gigs at public and private events.

View Nikau Foundation Profile

Transportation for Equity, Cuidad Viva, Chile

A broad coalition of community organizations that came together in 1996 to fight the first large urban highway project in Chile, which threatened to destroy several entire neighborhoods in Santiago, decided to formally incorporate in 2000. The result was Cuidad Viva (Living City), a grantmaking organization devoted to citizen empowerment and neighborhood development that has built on the knowledge gained during the highway struggle. Having learned how transportation affects access to education, jobs, health care and cultural amenities, Cuidad Viva has steadfastly focused on the issue as a strategy for building a more equitable and environmentally sustainable Santiago.

To stretch Cuidad Viva’s modest grantmaking budget, projects supporting travel by bicycle (which is more affordable than the automobile and even public transportation) have been carried out via a number of key collaborations with international partners, such as the Interface for Cycling Expertise (I-CE), based in the Netherlands. An electronic debate on a Citizen’s Agenda for Sustainable Transport in Santiago (2000), a study of the strengths and weaknesses of Santiago’s transport system (2003), an information center to educate traffic planners, citizens groups and the media about transportation for equity issues (est. 2007), a Green Map of the city’s walking and bicycling routes (published in 2008 and updated in 2010)—the cumulative weight of Cuidad Viva’s advocacy changed the thinking of municipal authorities about how to integrate transportation into urban redevelopment. The city planned to build 600 kilometers of new bicycle paths by 2012, and political leaders and traffic engineers agreed to work with Cuidad Viva and I-CE on ensuring that the design of new biking infrastructure complied with safety and comfort criteria used in cycle-friendly countries.

View Ciudad Viva Profile

Growing and Empowering Local Leadership

As top-down decision making is often counterproductive, identification and development of grassroots leaders who can contribute to the crafting, resourcing and execution of civic betterment plans is a necessity.

Preserving Native Arts and Culture, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, United States

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, the surviving members of 29 bands of Native Americans who made their way to western Oregon in the 1880s, are proud, resilient and generous people. After they lost 60,000 acres of treaty lands when their legal status was terminated in 1954, the Tribes worked hard to restore their self-sufficiency. They regained federal recognition, reassembled a reservation and opened a casino in 1996. In accordance with a Native American tradition of giving called potlatch (a ceremony at which one’s emblems of good fortune are shared with everyone), the Tribes established the Spirit Mountain Community Fund the following year to give back to the neighbors and friends who had stood by them and helped them in difficult times.

In addition to supporting nonprofit organizations throughout an 11-county area, the Spirit Mountain Community Fund makes nation-building grants to preserve and spread appreciation of Native American culture and values. For example, in 2012, Spirit Mountain agreed to partner with the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) on an outreach effort specifically for the Pacific Northwest. The Tribes authorized a $25,000 challenge grant that other tribes in the region matched. The monies enabled NACF to begin regionally bolstering the professional development services available to Native American artists. By strengthening the artists’ communication and marketing skills, they can become even more effective culture bearers.

View Spirit Mountain Community Fund Profile

Steering Committee, Haiti Community Foundation

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake of 2010, the volunteer director of ESPWA (Economic Stimulus Projects for Work and Action), a U.S.-based consultancy devoted to nation building in Haiti, convened a steering committee of Haitian businesspeople, educators, religious figures, civil society activists and Haitian-American community development leaders. The committee’s role was to begin planning for a community foundation for the island state, which has not fully benefited from the billions of dollars raised or promised to aid the country’s recovery. Pointing to evidence such as a report issued by the Center for Global Development research institute that claimed that only 0.6 percent of relief and recovery funds have gone directly to Haitian businesses and organizations as of 2013, ESPWA was convinced that traditional community development efforts would continue to fall short, primarily because development strategies and resources remained in the control of international players.

A Haiti-based, Haiti-led community foundation seemed to ESPWA’s director to represent a better development model, especially if its decision-making processes were based on the principles of equity and inclusiveness. Divisions over issues of class, skin color, politics and religion run deep in Haiti, giving rise to the use of a Creole expression, “moun pa,” meaning keeping to “your own people,” to describe the country’s invisible but rigid systems of exclusion. ESPWA’s wide-ranging consultations with hundreds of Haitians about the community foundation concept and its appointment of a broadly based steering committee were important steps toward the ultimate creation of a philanthropic organization committed to building the capacity of Haitians to take effective action on their own behalf.

View Economic Stimulus Projects for Work and Action Profile

Women’s Funding Network, Tewa Women’s Fund, Nepal

Tewa Women’s Fund was established in 1996 to promote the empowerment of women in Nepal as an alternative model for community development. Founded by Rita Thapa, a feminist educator, activist and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Tewa funds and trains mostly rural, mostly grassroots women’s groups interested in mobilizing their own resources to conduct income-generating activities that will lead to economic independence for themselves and their sisters. In its first 15 years the fund trained almost 600 women volunteers of all ages, ethnicities and religious backgrounds to be effective philanthropic leaders and awarded 436 grants in 65 of Nepal’s 75 districts. Grantees have started poultry farms and fisheries, taught the unemployed the marketable skill of sewing, established credit savings unions, conducted adult literacy courses and, perhaps most important, educated women about their rights and responsibilities.

Tewa recently concluded a successful, $1 million capital campaign to improve its training center on quiet, well-kept grounds in Kathmandu. The monies were earmarked to build a dormitory, professionally equip a makeshift kitchen and purchase meeting room furniture—needed improvements to an already inspiring space in which women from across Nepal regularly come together to learn from one another about community development. Every one of Tewa’s 90 grantee groups contributed to the Sampanna Campaign, demonstrating the strength of the women’s funding network that Tewa has created in Nepal.   

View Tewa Women’s Fund Profile

Young Grantmakers Committee, Uluntu Community Foundation, Zimbabwe

“Uluntu” means “people” in Ndebele, the main local language of western Zimbabwe. It is a fitting name for a young philanthropic institution launched by a group of concerned Zimbabweans to foster development driven by local communities rather than external agencies.

Uluntu Community Foundation’s service area, the Matabeleland provinces, experience all the social ills associated with poverty levels estimated at 80 percent and unemployment rates estimated at 90 percent. Matabeleland’s youth are especially vulnerable, as many are without education, skills and a reliable source of income. The lack of jobs and recreational outlets for young adults between the ages of 15 and 25 predisposes them to loitering and alcohol and drug abuse, according to Uluntu’s baseline survey of 40 young residents of the Robert Sinyoka community on the outskirts of Bulawayo, where the foundation is based.

The survey also disclosed the youths’ aspirations to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty—energy and optimism that Uluntu has nurtured. In 2012, the foundation convened young people from across the Bulawayo area to map their futures at a peer-learning event aimed at unleashing the creativity, entrepreneurship and self-reliance of the participants. At a second convening, attendees learned to assess and appreciate their communities’ assets and think of themselves not only as beneficiaries, but also as givers. To provide attendees with hands-on experience in philanthropy, the gathering concluded with the election of a grantmaking committee comprised of representatives from each of the attendees’ neighborhoods.

The foundation worked closely with the Uluntu Young Grantmakers Committee to identify issues that affect young people and devise solutions. In its first round of grantmaking, committee members chose to lend support to two youth-led projects in the areas of multimedia and arts and culture, demonstrating to themselves and their peers that the way to begin realizing their aspirations was to “start with what we have and build with what we know.”

View Uluntu Community Foundation Profile

Preparing the Next Generation

Education is a preeminent concern of the community foundation movement. At every step along the path from early childhood to productive citizenry, foundations can be counted on to offer educators and mentors programmatic, administrative and technological support. Dedicated to ensuring that every child achieves at the highest possible level, they are frequently advocates or catalysts of education reform.

Apples in a Seed Center for Philanthropy, The Beautiful Foundation, South Korea

At its Apples in a Seed Center for Philanthropy, The Beautiful Foundation of Seoul, South Korea, is attempting to nurture a spirit of giving in children. Committed to a vision of a “justly affluent” society in which individuals do not focus exclusively on building wealth, but also reach out to those mired in poverty, the foundation started this philanthropic education program in 2003 to counter the self-absorption of modern life.

Every summer, the center organizes a Philanthropy Camp for elementary students. Its aim is to instill in fourth through sixth graders the habit of giving, not out of pity, but purely for the joy of reaching out in solidarity to others. A Philanthropy Club for teenagers facilitates the adolescents’ engagement in charitable activities. Recognizing that seeds need water and sunlight to flourish, the center also trains elementary teachers to incorporate philanthropy education into the classroom and hosts lectures specifically for parents who wish to help their children acquire the traits of compassion and generosity. With each child who returns his Apples in a Seed piggybank filled with coins to be donated to worthy causes, Seoul moves closer to achieving the social harmony championed by The Beautiful Foundation.

View Beautiful Foundation Profile

“Conecta: Playing for Change,” ICom, Brazil

ICom (Instituto Comunitário Grande Florianópolis), only the second community foundation to be established in Brazil, serves the capital city of a state in the southern part of the country. One of the challenges facing the new philanthropic organization (est. 2005) was how to build a culture of giving, especially among young people, in a metropolitan area of one million. ICom sought answers from young people themselves, convening a youth committee that came up with the idea of creating an online game that would serve to encourage the civic engagement of teenagers and young adults.

“Conecta: Playing for Change,” which was conceived by the youth committee members in consultation with professional game designers, debuted on Facebook in November 2012. To win points, trophies and the right to invite friends into the game, players answer questions about the city’s real-life problems, enabling them to make virtual improvements to the health, education, transportation and environmental conditions depicted on a large graphic rendering of Florianópolis.

Participation builds the players’ civic knowledge, and links to a host of nonprofit organizations are intended to make it easy to connect offline with people who are addressing the city’s challenges. Every month or so players are organized into flash mobs that perform community services such as beach cleaning. Although the number of people who played Conecta in its first year online was in the low hundreds and the mechanisms for moving players from gaming to concrete action remain rudimentary, Conecta has demonstrated the potential to be an efficient and popular way for ICom to reach out to the youth of Florianópolis.

View ICom - Instituto Comunitário Grande Florianópolis Profile

“Go-to” Support for Schools, Arusha Municipal Community Foundation, Tanzania

In Tanzania, public education has been free since 2002, but resources to ensure that every public school student succeeds have not kept pace with massive increases in public school enrollments. Established in 2008 in the country’s third largest city (pop. 416,000), the Arusha Municipal Community Foundation regularly steps forward to bridge the gap.

The foundation’s School Bursary Fund has provided $10,000 to date to pay for uniforms, books, pens and examination fees for more than 200 schoolchildren whose parents or guardians cannot afford these necessary expenses. A similarly sized single grant outfitted an entire secondary school with science laboratory kits. To encourage the study of subjects required for admission to university, the foundation annually funds prizes presented to schools and secondary students demonstrating excellence in physics and mathematics.

The foundation’s most sweeping educational initiative has been to encourage the formation of agricultural clubs at secondary schools to prepare students for jobs in small-scale farming and cottage industries. In addition to training teachers to lead club courses and activities, the foundation has provided small grants to enable club members to start school gardens. Gardening serves as a practicum in modern agriculture techniques and also provides schools with a measure of food security. When one agricultural club needed an irrigation system for its garden, the foundation promptly raised $5,000 to build a large tank for rainwater harvesting. In a relatively brief time, the Arusha Municipal Community Foundation has become the “go-to” partner of the city’s public education system.

View Arusha Municipal Community Foundation Profile

Struggles & Successes