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Tag Archives: community foundation

All four primary types of grant-making foundations – independent, corporate, community, operating – are more numerous today than at any time in the past. They differ in their shares of the sum of all grant-making foundations and in their shares of total annual giving.


This post explores recent trends in the United States of America in the distribution of all grant-making foundations by type and by shares of total annual giving. An earlier post explored trends in the numbers of foundations making grants to nonprofit organizations.


Foundations by Type:

Data available via the Foundation Center’s FC Stats site indicate that during the period, 2005-2009, independent foundations increased from 88.7% to 89.5% of all grant-making foundations. Operating foundations declined from 6.6% in 2005 to 6.0% in 2009; corporate foundations slid ever so slightly from 3.7% to 3.6%, and community foundations similarly slid from 1.0% to 0.9%.


Distribution by Types of Private and Community Foundations
  2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Type N % N % N % N % N %
Independent 63,059 88.7 64,405 88.9 67,034 89.2 67,379 89.1 68,508 89.5
Corporate 2,607 3.7 2,548 3.5 2,498 3.3 2,745 3.6 2,733 3.6
Community 707 1.0 717 1.0 717 1.0 709 0.9 737 0.9
Operating 4,722 6.6 4,807 6.6 4,938 6.6 4,762 6.3 4,567 6.0
Total 71,095   72,477   75,187   75,595   76,545  


Foundations by Annual Giving:

The Foundation Center’s data indicate that corporate, community, and operating foundations accounted for shares of total annual giving disproportionately larger than their shares of all grant-making foundations. In 2009, corporate foundations were 3.6% of all foundations, but accounted for 10.2% of annual giving; community foundations were 0.9% of all foundations, but accounted for 9.1% of annual giving; and, operating foundations were 6.0% of all foundations, but accounted for 9.1% of annual giving. By contrast, independent foundations were 89.5% of all foundations, but accounted for 71.5% of annual giving.


During the period, 2005-2009, independent foundations’ shares of total annual giving rose from 69.2% to 71.5% and community foundations’ shares rose from 8.8% to 9.1%. During the same period, corporate foundations’ shares of total annual giving fell somewhat from 11.0% to 10.2% and operating foundations’ shares fell somewhat more from 11.0% to 9.1%.


Annual Giving Among Private and Community Foundations
  2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Type $Billion % $Billion % $Billion % $Billion % $Billion %
Independent 25.199 69.2 27.457 70.4 32.219 72.6 33.818 72.3 32.752 71.5
Corporate 3.995 11.0 4.097 10.5 4.397 9.9 4.570 9.8 4.690 10.2
Community 3.217 8.8 3.596 9.2 4.347 9.8 4.492 9.6 4.174 9.1
Operating 3.990 11.0 3.852 9.9 3.428 7.7 3.900 8.3 4.160 9.1
Total 36.402   39.004   44.393   46.781   45.778  


Trend Implications:

Among the implications of the trend data for cutting up the grant-making pie:

  • Independent foundations form an ever-larger slice
  • Operating foundations form an ever-smaller slice
  • Community foundations form a stable but growing slice
  • Corporate foundations form a stable but shrinking slice



Growth in the number of potential funders is good news for nonprofit organizations operating in the United States of America. Grant-making foundations are far more numerous than they were two decades ago – as are the nonprofits that compete for their philanthropic attentions.


This post examines trends in the numbers of foundations making grants to the Nation’s 1.6 million federally registered nonprofit organizations.


A Census of Foundations:

The Foundation Center’s FCStats database reports that:

  • In 1991, out of 33,356 grant-making foundations, 29,476 were independent, 1,775 were corporate, 1,770 were operating, and 335 were community.
  • In 2001, out of 61,810 grant-making foundations, 55,120 were independent, 2,170 were corporate, 3,918 were operating, and 602 were community.
  • In 2010 (the latest year available), out of 76,610 grant-making foundations, 68,992 were independent, 2,718 were corporate, 4,166 were operating, and 734 were community.


Growth Trends:

From 1991 to 2010, the total number of grant-making foundations is up 129.7%. The numbers of three types of foundations more than doubled —Independent foundations are up 134.1%; operating foundations are up 135.3%; and community foundations are up 119.1%. The number of corporate foundations is up by only 53.1% during the same period.


Year Total Independent Corporate Operating Community
1991 33,356 29,476 1,775 1,770 335
2001 61,810 55,120 2,170 3,918 602
2010 76,610 68,992 2,718 4,166 734


Later posts will explore trends in the distribution of grant-making foundations by type and trends in the distribution of grant-making foundations by their shares of total annual giving.

Community foundations are one of four primary types of foundation, the others being independent, corporate, and operating. Concentrated in ten states, they account for about 1% of all foundations and for about 9% of total annual foundation giving. In recent years, the ratio of community foundations that have expected to increase their giving in a subsequent calendar year has varied from 17% to 64%, while the rest have expected either no change in giving or a decrease.


This post uses Foundation Center data, published in its annual “Key Facts on Community Foundations” series, to explore philanthropic trends among community foundations. Its context is the United States of America during the period 2006-10.


Numbers of Community Foundations:

From 2006 to 2010, the total number of foundations increased by 4,133 (or 5.7%) from 72,477 to 76,610. Over the same period, the total number of community foundations increased by 17 (or 2.4%) from 717 to 734. Their share of all foundations remained under 1% throughout the period.


Year Community Foundations All Foundations
Number Percent (%) of Total Number Total Number
2006 717 Less than 1% 72,477
2007 717 Less than 1% 75,187
2008 709 Less than 1% 75,595
2009 737 Less than 1% 76,545
2010 734 Less than 1% 76,610


In 2006, eight states had 20 or more community foundations: California (CA), Florida (FL), Indiana (IN), Michigan (MI), Ohio (OH), Pennsylvania (PA), Texas (TX), and Wisconsin (WI). Iowa (IA) in 2007 became the 9th state on this list, and New York (NY) became the 10th state on it in 2008. Washington State (WA) became the 11th state on the list in 2009, but it left the same list in 2010.


Share of Total Foundation Giving:

Each year during 2006 to 2010, community foundation giving, as a share of total foundation giving, remained at between 9% and 10%. After rising from 9% in 2006 to 10% in both 2007 and 2008, it fell back to 9.1% in 2009 and moved to 9.2% in 2010.


Annual Giving by Foundation Type:

During 2006-10, annual giving by community foundations increased from $3.6 billion to $4.2 billion (and has been estimated at $4.2 billion again for 2011). Total foundation giving increased from $39 billion to $45.9 billion over the same five-year period.


Annual Giving by Type of Foundation
Year Independent Community Operating Corporate Total
2006 $27.5 billion $3.6 billion $3.9 billion $4.1 billion $39.0 billion
2007 $32.2 billion $4.3 billion $3.4 billion $4.4 billion $44.4 billion
2008 $33.8 billion $4.5 billion $3.9 billion $4.6 billion $46.8 billion
2009 $32.8 billion $4.2 billion $4.2 billion $4.7 billion $45.8 billion
2010 $32.5 billion $4.2 billion $4.3 billion $4.7 billion $45.9 billion


Forecast Changes in Community Foundation Giving:

During survey years 2007 through 2011 — with the big exception of 2008 — two fifths of more of all community foundations expected to increase their giving during the following calendar year (i.e., in 2008 through 2012). The balance of the community foundations in each survey year expected either to see no change in giving or to see a decrease.


Year of Forecast % Forecast Increase %  Forecast Decrease % Forecast No Change
2007 64% 25% 11%
2008 17% 74% 9%
2009 41% 42% 17%
2010 50% 34% 16%
2011 45% 35% 15%


A later post will explore the significance for grant seekers of the five-year philanthropic trends among corporate, community, and family foundations.

An earlier post promised to examine how potential applicants might use answers to a set of specific questions about information found in foundation directory grant maker profiles to sort out the strong leads from the weak ones.


As follow-up to that promise, this is the first of three posts on using foundation directories in prospect research. It covers: physical location, websites, limitations, types of grant makers, and IRS 990-PF forms.


Physical Location:

In general, the more distant a private foundation is from a grant seeker the less likely it is to award a grant. Its address on a map is merely a first small clue in the search for potential funders. A local grant maker often is somewhat more familiar with local needs (or problems) and local priorities. Its directors and benefactors often also have resolved to try to meet (or solve) them. Thus, there is good reason to look locally first, but that by itself is no reason not to look farther afield later.



The contents of a foundation website are often much more current and more extensive than those of even the best print or online directory. A grant seeker can search a funder’s website to verify or qualify the information it finds there. It is often possible to use a foundation’s website to confirm deadlines, retrieve application forms and instructions, review grant history, identify current directors and trustees, and do other tasks helpful in doing prospect research and preparing grant applications.



A limitation is a restriction on grant-making. As a pre-condition, it shrinks the pool of applicants. A limitation may have to do with where, or what, or for what, or how many, or when, or how often, or how, or any other aspect of seeking a grant from a given funder. Often limitations pertain to geography, or purposes, or activities. If an applicant falls within – or sometimes, outside – the scope of one or more limitations it may need to look elsewhere for funding.


Types of Grant Makers:

The type of grant maker (e.g., community foundation, family foundation, corporate charitable giving program) impacts the entire solicitation process and the likelihood of funding. In a corporate charity, for example, decision-making will follow different paths and obey different logics than in the foundations. A corporate charity may donate labor and products, not actual cash grants. A family foundation may make less predictable funding decisions than a corporate one. A non-family independent foundation may require a more rigorous evaluation plan than a family one. And a community foundation may gather and manage very distinct grant programs under its roof.


IRS 990-PF Forms:

The 990-PF is a yearly financial statement that private foundations file with the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The more recent the year of the form on file the more it should reflect the foundation’s present priorities and practices. Comparisons of several years of filings may disclose patterns and trends in grant making.


On each year’s filing, look for the ranges and amounts of grant awards. Look also at the types and locations of applicants winning them. How to analyze a 990-PF is an art in itself, one in which the Foundation Center offers some basic assistance.


Only private foundations must file the 990-PF. Grant-making public charities and community foundations file Form 990 in the same manner as other non-profit organizations. Corporate charitable giving programs do not file yearly reports with the IRS.

The vocabulary of budget development is part of the language required for writing successfully funded grant proposals. This set of entries covers words and phrases from A-C.

ABSOLUTE PRIORITY: An area of focus that a government grant-maker requires without exception as part of an applicant’s proposal, and that if it is absent prevents a proposal from being reviewed, scored, or ranked. It is one of three common types of government funding priority. Also see: Competitive Priority and Invitational Priority.

ACTIVITIES: Logical sequences of actions or steps to be undertaken to accomplish one or more project objectives by applying specific identified resources and strategies to solve a problem or to meet a need within a pre-defined span of time.

ALLOWABLE COSTS: The cost categories or discrete line items that a grant-maker permits or encourages an applicant to include as part of a proposed budget.

ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REPORT (APR): A yearly document that a grant recipient submits to a grant-maker, as required; commonly, it includes a description of project accomplishments, a statement of progress towards attaining project objectives, and project budget information.

APPLICANT: The organization or individual that seeks a grant by submitting a proposal (or an application) for funding. It will be legally responsible for properly managing the funding if a grant is awarded. Also see: Fiscal Agent.

APPLICATION: The total formal document or package that an applicant submits to a grant-maker. It describes a proposed project and its budget and it usually forms the basis for a grant award; often used as a synonym for proposal.

AWARD NOTIFICATION: A formal, written, physical document that a grant-maker typically mails to an applicant; it informs the applicant that it will receive a grant, and it indicates the amount of the grant award and the start and end dates of the grant period.

BUILDING RENOVATION GRANT: A grant of funds intended to be used to repair, renew, or construct one or more buildings or parts of buildings; informally, also called a bricks and mortar grant.

BUDGET: The total estimated cost of all project activities; alternatively a plan for expending funds in a grant award. A budget often may incorporate both revenues (also called income) and expenditures.

BUDGET ITEM: A single element in a proposed budget; it includes a brief description and an amount per project year. Also see: Line Item.

BUDGET JUSTIFICATION: A brief description or explanation defending items in a proposed budget, particularly all those items that reviewers may find questionable.

BUDGET NARRATIVE: Often used as another term for a budget justification, a budget narrative is a brief description or explanation of some or all of the items in a proposed budget.

BUDGET PERIOD: The time-span that any given budget covers, usually any twelve consecutive months, such as a grant-maker’s fiscal year. Also see: Grant Period and Project Period

CAPACITY: A measure of an applicant’s present and future ability to implement and sustain an initiative or project that it proposes for external grant funding

CAPACITY-BUILDING GRANT: A grant designed to create or expand an applicant’s ability to provide services, often of a magnitude and scope similar to those funded through a proposed grant, after that grant expires. Alternatively, a grant intended to create or expand an applicant’s ability to operate more effectively or more efficiently or more sustainably.

CATALOG OF FEDERAL DOMESTIC ASSISTANCE (CFDA): The compendium of all domestic grant programs and other forms of assistance for all federal agencies in the United States of America; its program descriptions provide critical information for potential applicants for federal grants. Its website is

CFDA NUMBER: A unique five-digit code for each federal funding program; it includes a unique two-digit prefix code for the specific federal agency, a dot or point, and a unique three-digit code for each specific funding program. Example: All grants from the United States Department of Education (USDE) are coded as 84.XXX.

CHALLENGE GRANT: A grant from a single source intended to lead to further grants from other sources by committing the grant-maker to award a grant only if the applicant raises the balance of funds from other sources within a certain time period.

COMMITMENT: A measure of an applicant’s present and future internal investment of its own resources, both cash and in-kind, in an initiative or project that it proposes for external grant funding.

COMMUNITY FOUNDATION: A charitable organization that awards grants in a specific community or geographic region. In general, community foundations receive funds from many donors, maintain them in multiple endowments, and use the endowments’ income to fund grant awards. Example: Maine Community Foundation at

COMPETITIVE GRANT: A grant program in which eligible applicants submit proposals, the grant-maker reviews, rates, and ranks the proposals, and the highest ranked proposals are funded down a list of applicants, usually until available funds are exhausted.

COMPETITIVE PRIORITY: An area of focus which a grant-maker would prefer to see as part of an applicant’s proposal; it may affect the rating or the rank ordering of proposals either by the award of additional scoring points or by its use as a tie-breaker.

A later post will cover entries in this glossary starting with letters C-F.

It can help in winning a grant to consider planning a proposal to a private foundation as a 12-step process. These are the first six steps.


1. Search. Use a project outline or a similar device as a guide for planning and identifying a suitable project. Research foundation websites, state directories of foundations, and Foundation Center (or other) databases. Review tables of contents, search options, and instructions about how to use the directories and databases. Refer to glossaries, if any, to clarify terms as needed. Use subject topic options and types of support options to help narrow the search.


2. Review. Match up the project with each identified foundation grant program. Consider each possible match in terms of applicant eligibility, types of available support, geographic focus, subject focus, application deadlines, ranges of recent grant awards, and types and locations of recent grant recipients. Sort the prospect list into stronger prospects and weaker ones. Eliminate prospects that decline unsolicited proposals.


3. Align. Identify up to ten potential sources of foundation funding. Focus first on foundations with a presence in your city or county or state. Using foundation websites or those of Guidestar or the Foundation Center, look up their filings of IRS 990-PF forms. Review their grant-making programs and priorities. Examine their annual reports and position papers, if any. Look for and note any clues about their passions, agendas, and funding patterns. Consider the degree of fit between these and your project.


4. Refine. Prepare to contact your leading prospects. Record and use their preferred means of contact: e-mail, phone, visit, or letter. Contact your selected foundations, where possible and necessary, to request any materials you cannot already find for downloading from their websites. Such materials may include: recent grant awards, recent newsletters and annual reports, other foundation publications, and application guidelines or templates.


5. Analyze. Organize the materials you collect about each foundation. Use database software or create a searchable spreadsheet. Populate the database with information about local and regional foundations. Track the nature and extent of your prospect research. Create accurate records of any contacts with selected foundations. Document their responses to requests for information and your follow-up to them.


6. Revise. Analyze your databases and materials to narrow your focus. Reconsider the degree of fit of your organization and your project with each selected target foundation. Order in ranked priorities those foundations whose grant-making programs appear to have the best fit with you. Work down through the resulting list.


Six more steps for winning foundation grants will appear here soon.

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