German and US community foundations – what can they learn from each other? 

Christiane Biedermann, Bernadette Hellmann and Stefan Nährlich

Community foundations are a global phenomenon. The first community foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, was founded by Frederick Goff in Ohio over 100 years ago. The aim was to create a local and independent institution, run for and by citizens, which made charitable giving more effective. Today there are 789 US community foundations with combined assets of $82 billion according to Foundation Center estimates.

Today, there are more than 1,800 community foundations in over 50 countries. In Germany, in particular, community foundations or Bürgerstiftungen have developed very dynamically.

A wordcloud of German community foundations. Photo credit: Stiftung Aktive Bürgerschaft.

The first Bürgerstiftungen were founded in Gütersloh and Hannover in 1996 and 1997.

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