Give to or Through a Community Foundation

From Toolkit for Giving: Ways to Give

What is a Community Foundation?

Community foundations are charitable organizations that may administer a number of funds primarily for local purposes, to solve community or regional problems and improve the lives of people in their geographic area. Community foundations are found in most major cities, and in numerous counties and smaller towns. Some are statewide and some are multi-state.

There is another type of community foundation, called a "public foundation," whose primary focus is not a geographic area but rather the needs and interests of a particular issue, demographic segment or denominational group. A public foundation's geographic focus may be local, statewide, national or international. Public foundations typically offer the same giving opportunities and tax advantages as community foundations.

Community foundations allow you to establish charitable funds without incurring the costs of starting and administering a private foundation. Community foundations are administered by a governing body or distribution committee representative of community interests. Because community foundations are public charities supported by donors from across the community, all contributions to community foundations are allowed significant tax benefits.

In addition to creating a fund at an existing community foundation, groups of donors may want to consider creating a new community foundation or other type of public foundation to support their community (see Create a Community Foundation).

Types of Community Foundation Funds

You can make gifts to a community foundation to create or support several different types of charitable funds, including:

Unrestricted Fund
The income from your gift is used where the foundation's board deems it is most needed.

Field of Interest Fund
You support charitable organizations in a specific field of your choice, such as the arts, education or the environment. Individual organizations are not specified.

Designated Fund
You designate one or more specific charitable organizations to benefit from your gift.

Donor-Advised Fund
You can assign family members and others to join you in advising the foundation on how the income or principal from your fund should be distributed. (Note: the requirements about who can continue as your fund's advisors after your death, and for how long, vary for different community foundations.) You can establish a broad purpose for your donor-advised fund, or specify a field of interest. The community foundation may charge an annual fee for administering your fund. Donor-advised funds can be set up by individuals, families or corporations.

Donor-advised funds are viewed by some as an alternative to establishing a private foundation. To learn more about the differences between establishing a donor advised fund at a community foundation and establishing a private foundation, see the Giving Options Summary Chart.

Next Steps

If you'd like more information on making a gift to or through a community foundation, contact a community foundation directly. For a list of many Minnesota community foundations, see MCF's Community Foundation members, or try the national Council on Foundations' Community Foundation Locator.