Community Foundations

A Community Foundation is an independent, community-owned philanthropic organisation that operates in a specific region. It works with a range of donors to build endowment funds as long-term community assets; over time, a community foundation will typically build up a collection of endowed funds from many donors in the community. It makes grants to local organisations and initiatives, and it brings people together to build social capital and strengthen their communities by undertaking community leadership and partnership activities to address a wide variety of needs in its service area. In a nutshell:  local people giving time, skills and money for community benefit.

FRRR has been a catalyst for several Foundations, providing financial support for feasibility studies as well as supporting the work of many Foundations around Australia through Sustainability Grants, which enabled them to meet their operating costs.

Live local, give local

Community Foundations are an effective way of developing and delivering place-based philanthropy.

Such groups are ideally placed to support local activities, and facilitate grass-roots philanthropy because there are many people who choose to ‘give where you live’.

Community Foundations can be caused based, but are more typically focused on a particular geographic area, enabling donors to channel philanthropic investments to a particular location, thus creating and growing a local culture of philanthropy.

They often start as a result of local leader's desire to create a new future, enabled via a locally owned and focused organisation that targets a particular community need.

Some larger Trusts and Foundations are also choosing to partner with local Community Foundations, tapping into their network, knowledge and expertise.

At FRRR, we see the impact of such partnerships through the likes of the Back to School program and the Tomorrow:Today Foundation’s annual small grants program in Benalla.

A national network of Community Foundations

Thanks to a project undertaken by Australian Community Philanthropy with funding from FRRR and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, (themselves a Community Foundation), we now have a national picture of Community Foundations, as well as a better understanding of their key challenges and possible approaches to strengthening Community Foundations. There are 36 Community Foundations operating across Australia, with the majority in rural and regional areas.

Running a Community Foundation isn’t easy but they have common issues and challenges - which are discussed at the Annual Community Foundations Forum – such as building a corpus, deciding which projects to support, and maintaining momentum. FRRR usually offers scholarships to the annual CFF. Full and part scholarships are available.

Resources for Community Foundations

FRRR provides support to community foundations, helping them share knowledge and explore common issues. Some of the work we have done is available online as key resources:

  • In November 2014, FRRR hosted a webinar presentation from Emily Fuller from VFFF, who shared the findings from a research paper exploring the role of community foundations globally.
  • FRRR ran a webinar solely focussed on community foundations in June 2015, as part of the Creating Inspiring Rural Community Leadership and Engagement (CIRCLE) program. Watch the recording of the webinar featuring Alice Macdougall, Legal Counsel, Herbert Smith Freehills, discussed the role that Community Foundations and Donation Accounts can play in helping rural, regional and remote communities. You can also download the presentation slides.
  • Following the CIRCLE community foundations webinar, seven videos were developed that investigate what a community foundation is, how they are structured, legal considerations and possible funding alternatives, as well as some tips on getting started. Watch Community Foundations 101 and hear from guests Georgie McKay from Stand Like Stone Foundation, Pat Claridge, from Tomorrow:Today Foundation, Dr Gill Sellar from Denmark Community Foundation and Robyn Hill from the Marysville and Triangle Community about their experiences building a successful community foundation.

Community Foundations and FRRR Donation Accounts

A number of Community Foundations utilise our Donation Accounts to enable them to provide grants to a wider group of organisations, and support more activities than may be possible through a traditional Community Foundation structure. A great example of the successful use of a Donation Account is the partnership between FRRR, Visy Corporation and Tumut Community Foundation.

Donation Account partnership in practice

The Tumut Community Foundation reports that the Visy partnership has made a tangible difference in their community, aiding capacity building and supporting some fantastic achievements by community groups.

From 2006 to 2011, this Donation Account partnership has had some notable achievements:

  • Distributed $280,000 in Visy Community Grant funding across 97 projects
  • 178 applications were received, seeking $1 million in project funding
  • Each grant averaged $2,880
  • 80% of grants were below $4,999 but they ranged from $400 to $13,500
  • Supported 60 community organisations, few of whom had DGR status

The depth and breadth of projects is truly impressive, as these examples attest:

Project Outcome
Batlow art projects Now accepted as part of community with a literary club recently being formed
Movies by Moonlight  An annual community celebration in Adelong
Tumut & District Concert Band Instruments for hire project  Increased band numbers and the bandmaster from outside the area has just opened a music store in Tumut, with increased tutoring in schools across the region;
Tumut Shire Youth Council – Youth in Philanthropy. Managed two small grant rounds for youth projects
Murrurundi Puppets Domestic violence project rolled out in all local primary schools. It immediately identified one case of domestic child abuse

Youth Council Music Jam

supplying sound equipment for a monthly jam, leading to a performance at Youth Council’s Youth week Party in the Park. A number of these performers were recorded at a local recording studio for the separate High School CD project, which provides an alternative to participation in sport
Kiddylink Play Group Increased participation in group from low income families and increased interaction with senior community members / volunteers
Annual Community Grant Celebration Brings groups of successful recipients together to share stories, learn about what’s going on in community and develop networks e.g: established contacts for visits by Adelong Public School students to the Adelong Men’s Shed.


Community Foundations we have supported include:


More information

The Victorian Government's Department of Human Services' website has a great series of videos and information that is relevant to community foundations everywhere. 

To explore the benefits a Community Foundation could offer your community or your philanthropic fund please visit Australian Community Philanthropy or contact us to discuss further.

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