US community foundations making significant global impact


Natalie Ross


Since I joined the Council on Foundations in early 2016, I have fielded many requests from community foundations (CFs) seeking support and guidance in facilitating international grants, often due to growing interest from members of their community in supporting causes overseas.

At the Council, we’ve witnessed first hand this growing trend of global grantmaking by CFs but never had data on the field to understand the scale of international giving by community foundations in the U.S. until now.

The Council, in collaboration with the Foundation Center, is delighted to release the first-ever analysis of international grantmaking by U.S. community foundations in our new report, Local Communities Global Reach.

Using the Foundation Center’s dataset of 1,000 of the largest U.S. foundations from 2010 to 2014, the report analyzes international grants made by U.S. community foundations, which included 10,533 grants amounting to $697 million dollars.

Beyond statistics on global grantmaking trends, the report also includes interviews with five community foundations – Boston Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, Greater Houston Community Foundation, Seattle Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation – who each approach international engagement in diverse ways.

Key Takeaways
The report also contains several key takeaways for community foundations interested in engaging internationally, including:

  • Many community foundations are beginning to adopt a broader, more nuanced definition of “community” than they have in the past, reflected in the increasingly more common practice of facilitating international grantmaking for members of their community.
  • Global engagement by U.S. community foundations extends beyond just grantmaking and can include learning exchanges, sister city relationships, engagement around trade, and more.
  • Non-U.S. community foundations, with more than 1,000 around the world, provide a key opportunity to build global relationships, for engagement and learning as well as grantmaking by U.S. community foundations.
  • A number of funds flowing towards programs overseas is expected to increase as overall grantmaking by U.S. community foundations continues to grow, although data show that international giving is likely to stay around 5-6 percent of overall giving by community foundations.

During our research, it became clear that many community foundations believe they are alone in choosing to facilitate international giving. But we know from experience and this report that community foundations of all sizes and geographies are embracing international giving.

With this in mind, we prepared a discussion guide for community foundations to use with their boards as they consider how the trend of international giving by community foundations might be most relevant to their organization.

We look forward to working with community foundations that choose to give internationally—please be in touch if you have questions about how to make grants globally, are interested in learning more about non-U.S. CFs who could be your partners around the world, or want to connect with other CFs working globally to share about pricing, operations, or programmatic concerns.

Natalie Ross is Senior Director for Global Philanthropy and Partnerships at the Council of Foundations.

This article originally appeared on the Council on Foundations website on 18 July 2017. The original article can be found here.

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