How can community foundations help create meaningful change in local communities?

What sorts of partnerships can be modeled effectively?

And what opportunities are there for regional and national funders to advance community change and power-building?

The Funders Network has released Community Foundations: Drivers of Inclusive and Meaningful Local Change, which looks at three community foundation programs and examines how these partnerships and initiatives are helping broaden expertise, grow peer networks, deepen local connections and build community power.

This report, made possible with the support of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, was researched and written by Estolano Advisors and includes interviews with and a survey of participating community foundations and their local partners, program investors, and TFN staff.

The report surfaces key outcomes and lessons learned from TFN’s three community foundation partnership programs:

The Community Foundation Water Initiative organized several site visits, including one to Los Angeles in 2019.

The Community Foundation Water Initiative, launched in 2015, includes five community foundation partners working individually and collectively to advance sustainable water management solutions. Since 2017, Smart Growth California, a TFN initiative, has facilitated efforts to identify and implement high-value collective activity toward achieving water goals. The program, which ended in 2020, was supported by a single funder, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

The City of Bridgeport, Conn., received a Partners for Places grant to help revitalize the city’s coastline. Photo Credit: The Trust for Public Land

Partners for Places, a matching grant program run jointly by TFN and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, creates opportunities for cities and counties in the United States and Canada to invest in local projects that make urban areas more prosperous, livable, and vibrant while also fostering long-term relationships between local government sustainability offices, community foundations, and frontline community-led groups. Accepting applications for Round 18 until March 19, Partners for Places has awarded more than $7.5 million leading to more than $16 million in investments. Partners for Places is currently supported by The JPB FoundationThe Kendeda FundThe Kresge FoundationNew York Community Trust, and the Pisces Foundation.

PPREP has been instrumental in helping the Quad Cities Community Foundation deepen relationships with other organizations, such as local nonprofits, that are instrumental in post-disaster recovery. Photo credit: Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities

Key Findings & Case Studies

Two key findings emerged while conducting this research:

Community foundations are crucial partners in creating meaningful and sustainable change in local communities.

Regional and national foundations have rich opportunities through these partnership models to engage place-based foundations in building community power and advancing inclusive community change.

Community Foundations: Drivers of Inclusive and Meaningful Local Change also lifts up several case studies that are illustrative of the work supported by these community foundation partnership models. In the report, you’ll learn how:

The Quad Cities Community Foundation, a member of the PPREP learning cohort, has added disaster preparation and recovery as a primary focus area in a region that has grappled with severe flooding and other extreme weather, cultivating relationships with organizations in other sectors, such as local nonprofits, first responder groups, and the media. The foundation also launched a Nonprofit Disaster Capacity Building cohort, based on PPREP, that strengthened 22 local nonprofit’s capacity to withstand emergencies and better serve their communities in the aftermath of local disasters.

The San Francisco Foundation’s participation in the Community Foundation Water Initiative helped it further its mission of advancing racial and economic inclusion while bringing water-related work into their new program areas. This included funding ClimatePlan — a statewide network led at the time by a Black female executive director, who brought a voice and perspective rarely seen in regional planning processes — to develop an action plan to equitably integrate water and land use in the San Francisco region.

The Greater New Orleans Foundation is supporting community-driven climate action planning in New Orleans through two Partners for Places matching grants. The first facilitated the development of the Trust for Public Land’s Climate Smart Cities tool, which aids the city in making location decisions for green, climate resilient infrastructure that helps to address socioeconomic and environmental inequities. The second Partners for Places award helped the City of New Orleans create a climate action strategy that integrated equity into the city’s implementation of its climate action plan.

Read the Report

We invite you to download a copy of the Community Foundations: Drivers of Inclusive and Meaningful Local Change report and executive summary; the report is also available in a tablet- and mobile-friendly version via the Issuu publishing platform.

Download PDF: Community Foundations: Drivers of Inclusive and Meaningful Local Change

Download PDFCommunity Foundations: Drivers of Inclusive and Meaningful Local Change (Executive Summary)

Web Friendly Version: Community Foundations: Drivers of Inclusive and Meaningful Local Change via Issuu

Thank you

TFN would like to thank the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation for its support, the team at Estolano Advisors for its hard work creating this report, and the funders, partners and local advocates who took the time to share their experiences and insights. We’d also like to thank the community, regional and national funders across our membership network for their commitment to creating communities that are equitable, sustainable and prosperous.

Learn More About Our Work

Visit the TFN Publications section on this website to see more publications from The Funders Network.

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