The 46 UK Community Foundations are a movement of county-based philanthropic Foundations committed to positive social change through community philanthropy. They are usually the largest or only county-based charity, and involve people from all parts of the community working together to harness local financial and other available resources to improve local people’s lives.
The Community Foundations support 12 priority causes: Arts & Culture and Heritage; Community & Family Support; Counselling, Advice & Mentoring; Crime & Anti-social Behaviour; Mental or Physical Ill-health & Disability; Education & Training; Employment & Labour; the Environment; Social Inclusion, Fairness & Equality; Poverty & Disadvantage; Healthy Living & Sport, and Housing & Homelessness.
The first Community Foundation was established in 1914 in Cleveland, USA by philanthropist Fred Goff who discovered that many of his predecessors had left sums of money to benefit causes which had since become obsolete. He realised that a better way to ensure a community’s future was to create a fund that was held by local people in perpetuity, to be used at their discretion to address the community needs of the day. The Cleveland Foundation has raised close to $1bn in donations, made grants of over $1.75bn, and still has over $2bn in endowment investments.
Reaching the UK in 1975, the Community Foundations are one of the fastest growth parts of the UK charity sector gaining large support on the basis that ‘need begins at home’.
Each Community Foundation is headed up by the Lord-Lieutenant, Her Majesty the Queen’s representative in that county, and gather support from leaders of the judiciary, the corporate world, local government, the voluntary sector and other influencers with the common aim of tackling disadvantage across each county.
With £583m in endowed funds and providing grants of £77.5m a year in 2017, the Community Foundations across the UK manage endowment funds given by both individuals and organisations, as legacies and life-time donations, connecting those donors to local needs; as well as representing national charities like Comic Relief and the Big Lottery to ensure that their grants reach the greatest need in each county.