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Happy 100th birthday community foundations!

Howard Lake | 14 October 2014 | Blogs

Despite the recent successes for a few charities of this year’s social media campaigns, including the #nomakeupselfie, it would be interesting to know, if people had a list of all of the charitable causes (minus the big brand names) how many would choose to give their ‘social media fiver’ to their local community?
This year sees the 100th anniversary of a major force in encouraging and supporting local charitable giving: the community foundation. And we know that local communities are certainly one thing that most people are likely to feel they are really connected to:
• The ONS Community Life survey (2013) showed a strong sense of community spirit, with 79% of people reporting they belong strongly to their neighbourhood.
• In the Mind the Gap report (New Philanthropy Capital, March 2014) on public perceptions of charities, it was revealed that over half of respondents (56%) thought charities should be helping communities.
• UKCF’s own Shine a Light research (December 2013) found that people are nearly twice as likely to feel confident that giving locally, as opposed to nationally, helps those who need it most, and that over half would give more locally if giving was easier and they could see the impact of their donation.

Happy birthday community foundations!

I’ll admit I didn’t know much about community foundations before I started working for UKCF around 14 months ago. I knew about my local community foundation (the Community Foundation for Merseyside, at the time) but didn’t know that it was part of a 48 strong network in the UK, and among an estimated 1,700 across the globe. This year our international movement is 100 years old.

Footballer Jamie Carragher runs the 23 Foundation

Footballer Jamie Carragher runs the 23 Foundation through the Community Foundation for Merseyside

Although not many people have heard of community foundations on a large scale, those who work with community foundations locally have a tendency to be evangelical about them and we have to ask the question: what makes a network of organisations have such longevity, stimulate such passion among our donors, and put us in the top twelve charitable foundations for grant-making and endowment size in the UK (clue: it’s not our national branding and PR successes). Ultimately, once our donors have tried on ‘strategic giving’ for size, in which they get to have a say in how their money is spent; consider a range of local community groups that benefit; and get to go out and see the impact that the money has, they’re unlikely to go back.
The first community foundation started in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914 and was set up by banker and lawyer Frederick H. Goff. Their website says:

“His vision was to pool the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists, living and dead, into a single, great, and permanent endowment for the betterment of the city. Community leaders would then forever distribute the interest that the trust’s resources would accrue to fund such charitable purposes as will best make for the mental, moral, and physical improvement of the inhabitants of Cleveland”.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

Over 70 years later, six community foundations in the UK were seed funded by Charities Aid Foundation and central government and 100 years later we’re staying true to Goff’s inspired vision.
The community groups that we and our donors support are an invaluable resource for the UK, taking a heavy load off the more formal support services in a way that can’t be measured or monetised, and the permanent endowments held by community foundations means they’re here to stay.
Laura Karban is the Communications and Research Officer for UK Community Foundations. UKCF is the membership organisation for community foundations that work across the UK to raise and then distribute money directly to local causes. Community foundations operate to ensure any form of philanthropy, whether from an individual or an organisation, is effective and brings greatest benefit to those in need in our local communities.
Last year, community foundations made over 20,000 grants, distributing over £65 million to local causes. Community foundations’ total managed endowment stood at £426 million in March 2014, an increase of 22% on the previous year.
UKCF represents 48 quality accredited community foundation members, which have been independently audited to meet its Charity Commission endorsed standards. It also represents six associates.