A community foundation is a tax-exempt, independent, publicly supported, philanthropic organization established for the long-term benefit of a defined geographic area. It also encourages and distributes non-permanent philanthropic funds.
A community foundation is run by an independent governing body representing the broad interests of the community with members of the board serving limited terms. The board is responsible for seeing that a reasonable rate of return is achieved on all funds entrusted to the foundation along with a few other obligations.
As our Community Foundation grows, we aspire to provide leadership on community issues by serving as a facilitator, convener, or mediator around significant community discussions. If it has the staff capacity, it may also provide technical advice to area nonprofits.
Generally, the foundation will hire professional management for its portfolio investment. Currently, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation (GKCCF) fulfills this need within our Community Foundation. The Foundation establishes the philosophy and policies for investments, but the professionals handle day-to-day decisions.
The Community Foundation will have a finance or investment committee determine the investment experts.
A fund agreement covers all gifts and funds in the Foundation. This agreement includes a “variance power” to modify the use of restricted funds if such restrictions become unnecessary, incapable of fulfillment, or inconsistent with the charitable needs of the community or area served. Those are the only conditions under which a foundation modifies the terms of a gift.
A community foundation files an annual return with the IRS, which is a publicly available document. In addition, most states require a state information return, which is also publicly available. Locally, we have an outside firm review our books yearly. The Foundation is primarily accountable to the people of the area it serves and publishes an annual report that is available to all.
The fund agreements that establish new funds in the Foundation are made available to each donor during preliminary conversations with Foundation staff. It is always recommended that donors’ counselors review charitable-gift plans.
A family may choose to establish a fund that bears their family name and continues their community giving in perpetuity. A community group may decide to establish a fund in honor of, or memory of, a friend or community leader. A business may choose a community foundation to help with its grant-making, saving time and personnel for the business, yet ensuring support for their selected charitable interests.
Some donors choose to make their community philanthropy anonymous, and the Community Foundation is a perfect partner to help them. Nonprofit agencies often establish agency endowments within a community foundation to guarantee their endowment donors that the principal of the gift is never disturbed and the earnings will forever come to the agency.
The community is well served to have both a United Way and a community foundation. A United Way typically serves only its member agencies, which is a small percentage of the community health and human service organizations. It makes annual distribution for general operating support to these agencies based on its annual fund drive proceeds.
The Community Foundation supports all areas of the community – arts and culture, education, health and human services, recreation, and civic affairs – and has no members who are guaranteed annual gifts. It distributes earnings in a competitive grant-making process, generally on a one-year-only basis. The Community Foundation distributes only the earnings from its endowment funds, and not all of the money that it holds.
It is a simple process involving a meeting with a representative of the Foundation and the donor to review the fund agreement form and determine the donor’s desires and the most suitable way to accomplish them. Once the donor and other appropriate counselors of the donor approve the form, the initial contribution is made and the fund is established. Generally the fund needs to be approved and accepted by the board of the Foundation at its next meeting.
No. The Foundation is able to accept gifts of appreciated securities (which are particularly advantageous to the donor), real property, or in some cases, personal property. Some foundations also accept business and partnership interests. The Community Foundation offers the maximum charitable deduction available for estate- and gift-planning opportunities. The Foundation is generally able to provide information on giving techniques and assist donors to evaluate the most effective ways to accomplish their charitable goals.
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