Community Foundation Atlas Now Available: Most Comprehensive Dataset About Community Foundations Just Published

As field celebrates a century of impact, nearly three-quarters of community foundations were created in the last 25 years

RELEASE DATE: 10.20.2014

CLEVELAND – Today at the 2014 Fall Conference for Community Foundations, an international research collaboration unveiled the “Community Foundation Atlas,” the most comprehensive directory of the world’s community foundation movement that has ever been published. The online platform, available at, maps the identities, locations, assets, roles and achievements of place-based philanthropies around the world.

Among the key findings:

The global community foundation movement is gaining momentum. Embracing an inclusive definition of “community philanthropy” field, the Atlas has identified 1,827 place-based foundations in 67 countries. While the movement began 100 years ago, the last three decades have seen explosive growth. In just the past 14 years, the number of known community foundations and community philanthropies nearly doubled, growing from approximately 1,000 in 2000 to more than 1,800 in 2014.

“Place-based philanthropy is on the rise globally in no small part because community foundations have resoundingly demonstrated to the world their ability to bring local people and resources to the table to address local needs,” concludes an analysis of the data gathered from the Atlas’s unprecedented survey of the global field and secondary research.

The international research effort was spearheaded by the Cleveland Foundation—the world’s first community foundation— located in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. Research partners were the New York City-based Foundation Center, the Global Fund for Community Foundations (Johannesburg, South Africa), WINGS, the Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (São Paulo, Brazil), and CENTRIS, the Centre for Research and Innovation in Social Policy and Practice (Newcastle, United Kingdom). The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, a private American philanthropy headquartered in Flint, Michigan, and longstanding supporter of community foundations worldwide, funded the project.

Other key findings:

  • Defining characteristics: Grantmaking and accountability to local residents were almost universally reported by survey respondents as central to the mission of community foundations.
  • Collective impact: Combined grantmaking from community foundations in the last fiscal year totaled more than $4.9 billion worldwide.
  • Education the most commonly cited program area: Foundations most commonly reported extensive programmatic engagement in education, followed closely by human and social services, arts and culture, and health.
  • Strengthening civil society also a priority: In addition to grantmaking, nearly half of foundations surveyed actively foster collaboration between grantees or provide training and capacity-building services to local organizations.
  • Populations served: Almost 30 percent of respondents work at least to some extent in a neighborhood-based service area. Forty percent report having a “local” orientation, while the service area of nearly one in four includes a regional focus. A very small percentage work at a national or international level.

The Community Foundation Atlas offers a variety of entry points to further understand the reach and influence of community
foundations, including:

  • Organization directory: This alphabetical listing is the portal to profile pages for 1,827 community foundations and community philanthropies. Visitors to the site can select individual organizations to review or filter by geographic region or country of particular interest. A built-in editing function enables foundations to easily update their profiles.
  • Data snapshots: A series of quick facts, deeper-dive infographics and a comprehensive, downloadable analysis present the Atlas’s baseline data in accessible form. The infographics are programmed to change in real time as organizational profiles are updated.
  • First-person accounts: Foundations describe in their own words the “most meaningful change” brought about in recent years as a result of their support or initiative. Considered in their entirety, these unrehearsed accounts show how place-based foundations are helping to advance their communities’ aspirations, large and small.
  • Stories of struggle and success: From the prosperous cities of Canada to the culturally rich matriarchal villages of rural India come 50 narratives chosen to convey the wide-ranging influence of the global community foundation movement. “Adding to Knowledge,” “Encouraging Innovation” and “Stimulating Policy and Systems Reform” are among the highlighted arenas of endeavor.

The Atlas provides a long-needed and detailed baseline of information upon which the field can build to facilitate wider exchange of best practices and high-impact collaborations aimed at addressing tough problems that span geographical boundaries. Post-launch planning for updated content, additional research and data analysis, and enhanced functionality for the
Atlas will be spearheaded by the Global Fund for Community Foundations and Foundation Center, the platform’s host.

For more information about the Community Foundation Atlas, visit: