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Frequently asked questions

General questions

Looking for a grant?

Questions from donors

General questions

What is Community Foundation Network (CFN)?

Established in 1991, Community Foundation Network is the national network linking, promoting and supporting nearly 60 community foundations across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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What are community foundations?

Community foundations are charities throughout the UK dedicated to strengthening local communities, creating opportunities and tackling issues of disadvantage and exclusion. Community foundations target grants that make a genuine difference to the lives of local people. They manage funds donated by individuals and organisations, building endowment and acting as the vital link between donors and local needs, connecting people with causes, and enabling clients to achieve far more than they could ever by themselves.

Community foundations allow donors to specify how, where and over what period of time their money is spent. Gifts of cash, shares, trusts, bequests and property are pooled in multipurpose endowment funds, creating a capital sum whose earnings address donors' specific interests.

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Where did community foundations start?

The first community foundation was established in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1914. Since then, at least 700 have been established in the United States alone where they serve tens of thousands of donors and administer more than $31 billion in charitable funds.

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Where do community foundations now operate?

At least 51 countries now have community foundations, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Mexico and South Africa, as well as the USA and the UK. There are at least 1,440 community foundations worldwide.

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How many community foundations are there in the UK?

The first UK community foundations appeared in the late 1970s. By 2011 there were 57, of which 42 are quality accredited. Over 98% of the UK population has access to one. Find your local community foundation.

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How do community foundations differ from other charities?

Community foundations are unique mechanisms for giving to charity. Their flexibility and personalised services allow donors to specify how, where and over what time period their money is spent. Community foundations offer an opportunity to channel help towards meeting local needs and allow donors to see tangible results in their local community.

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What funds do UK community foundations hold?

By March 2010, community foundations held  over £224.5 million in committed endowed giving. Community foundations offer a variety of funds: typically, a general fund for their area, plus several others funds for specific purposes, such as women's funds, community arts funds or health funds.

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How do community foundations finance themselves?

All community foundations aim to become self-financing. 
Community foundations charge major donors for the grant-making done on their behalf. Donors agree that this is more effective and less time-consuming than doing this work themselves. Many foundations have members who pay an annual subscription towards running costs and/or do local fundraising.

Some foundations have built up an administrative endowment to produce a stream of income, usually from donors who want to fund the development of philanthropy itself. In the initial stages of development, foundations often receive help from other charitable trusts that support the community foundation model and are keen to see a revival of this kind of philanthropy.

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Are there any Government links to community foundations?

CFN is a strategic partner of the Office for Civil Society, taking an active role in its programme to expand charitable giving.

Many community foundations in England were local funders for Grassroots Grants, a £130 million government programme that ran from 2008 to 2011. It consisted of a endowment match challenge (with the government doubling or trebling donations) and a small grants fund. The endowment challenge created a lasting pot of funding.

Many community foundations have previously managed government funds such as Local Network Fund, Neighbourhood Renewal Unit community chests, or funds from the European Social Fund.
 Several MPs and ex-MPs, including some senior politicians, are involved in their local community foundations. For example, Tony Blair is the Vice President of County Durham Community Foundation.

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How much do community foundations distribute in grants?

Around £70 million a year. Many community foundations distribute well over £1 million in grants a year. Over £400 million has been distributed in grants by community foundations in the last five years. Combined, community foundations are one of the largest non-government grant-making bodies in the UK.

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Looking for a grant?

How can I apply for a grant from a community foundation?

Contact your local community foundation. CFN's London office does not make grants or handle grant applications. All grant-making is done by local community foundations.

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What do community foundations fund?

Local community groups and voluntary organisations.

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How is grant-making managed?

A board of trustees, drawn from all sectors of the local community, governs community foundations' grant-making. Community foundations also draw on expert advice from the community by involving volunteers in grants committees. Comprehensive grant-making policies and procedures, combined with extensive knowledge and understanding of the local community and its needs, ensure grants are targeted responsibly and carefully. Read more.

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Do all community foundations offer similar programmes?

Community foundations' grant-making programmes vary according to donors wishes and the needs of the communities they serve.

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Questions from donors

What are the benefits of giving through a community foundation?

Giving through a community foundation means you are giving locally and making a long-lasting impact. It is a convenient, cost-effective, simple and flexible form of giving. Community foundations are accountable for the grants they make and can advise you on tax-effective ways of giving.

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Why should I give through a community foundation, rather than direct to a charity?

As a potential donor, picking your way round the charitable world can be a difficult task. Who, what, where or how do you wish to help? This is where community foundations help, with their in-depth knowledge of local communities.

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For a company, what are the benefits of giving through a community foundation?

Community foundations make corporate giving hassle-free and straightforward. They are ideally placed to help companies wishing to demonstrate commitment and involvement in their local community. Companies can outsource their in-house Corporate Social Responsibility function to their local community foundation and benefit from the efficiency, impact on staff motivation and recognition of giving locally.

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What kind of donations can be made through community foundations?

Community foundations work with a wide variety of donors - individuals, families, businesses, charitable trusts and statutory bodies - with a broad range of means.

Donations vary widely in size and form, including gifts of cash, trusts, bequests, shares or property. Donors can direct their funds to a favourite cause, organisation or specific geographical area. Donations can be pooled into themed funds to address a particular issue. A donation to a general endowment can be used more flexibly to make grants for a broad range of local activities.

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I can't afford a big donation but I still want to support my local community. Can I still give through a community foundation?

All donations whether large or small, repeat or one-off are welcome. Small donations are pooled in general funds, or can build toward a larger Named Fund. Advice on tax effective giving is also available. Some community foundations offer Acorn funds where you give a small amount each month to build up to your own fund.

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How can I give tax-effectively through community foundations?

The main ways are by using Gift Aid, giving shares or property, leaving a legacy or by joining a payroll giving scheme. You can get advice on tax effective giving appropriate to your particular circumstances from your local community foundation or from your own financial adviser.

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Is establishing a fund through a community foundation a good alternative to setting up my own trust?

Many donors have found establishing a fund at a community foundation a straightforward and convenient alternative to setting up their own charitable trust.

See DAFs and Trusts compared

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As a professional adviser, why should I advise my clients to give through a community foundation?

Community foundations are the ideal product for financial advisers, solicitors and accountants with clients wishing to give.

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UK Community Foundations Registered office: 12 Angel Gate, 320-326 City Road, London, EC1V 2PT Company registration number 2651777, registered in England and Wales. Registered charity number 1004630

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