Building Philanthropic and Social Capital: The work of community foundations by Peter Walkenhorst (ed)

The community foundation concept has spread around the world in the past decade, proving to be flexible and adaptable enough to meet the current and changing needs of local communities over time. This book is a reflection of the growing importance that community philanthropy in general, and community foundations in particular, have acquired in the philanthropic and community development spheres.

The first two essays set the stage and help the reader relate to the broader aspects of community philanthropy and foundations. The first outlines the main characteristics of community foundations, including their history since the first community foundation was established in the US 87 years ago. This includes a comprehensive account of recent developments in Europe. The second essay provides an interesting discussion on the role that community foundations play in building social capital, describing them as ‘the philosopher’s stone in community alchemy: converting social capital into financial capital and then back into social capital’.

The other three essays bring us right into the realm of the day-to-day work of community foundation professionals. The one on asset development gives a very complete overview of different types of fund, coupled with practical advice on their use and their appeal for potential donors. The roles and responsibilities of board and staff in relation to asset development are also discussed.

The next essay focuses on donor services. One can learn not only about the many ways in which community foundations in the US are engaging donors in philanthropy but also about the profile of the new donor or ‘hyper-agent’. The last essay looks at marketing community foundations. Concrete examples, ready-to-use templates and a five-step do-it-yourself approach make marketing a concept accessible even to start-up community foundations.

Although the book is an attempt to present the work and development of community foundations in an international perspective, it would have gained from more explanation of the US context in which the vast majority of the articles were based. And, in view of the fact that all eight contributors are American and many of the articles were written by two authors, it might be interesting to consider following up this publication with a set of essays written by a partnership of US and European authors.

These small quibbles apart, this book is a ‘must have’ for your bookshelf if you are interested in community philanthropy and foundations.

Luis Amorim is Community Philanthropy Initiative Coordinator at the European Foundation Centre. He can be contacted by email at luis@efc.be

Building Philanthropic and Social Capital: The work of community foundations
Peter Walkenhorst (ed) Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers DM32/$16/16 euros

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