The guide “Principles for Community Foundations” developed by Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) is a solid manual that outlines the fundamental principles that should guide the activities and ethics of community foundations. This second edition is clearly aimed at board members, staff, and volunteers involved in the activities of community foundations, but its principles can also be useful for other founders, grantmakers, and organizations engaged in community development.

Basic principles of the creation of community funds

The guide defines ten core principles that embody the philosophy and strategy of community foundation activities:

  1. Building Community Capacity: This principle emphasizes the importance of leveraging the internal strengths and resources of the community. It includes supporting local leadership, fostering self-sufficiency, and mobilizing community resources and participation.
  2. Understanding Community Change: Community foundations should be informed about local and national trends, demographics, and the evolving needs of their communities. This requires active engagement with the community and regular consultations.
  3. Creating Opportunities for Dialogue: With their broad mandate, community foundations are uniquely positioned to foster respectful and inclusive discussions on important community issues.
  4. Building Partnerships: Effective community foundations form and sustain partnerships across various sectors, including individuals, neighborhood groups, businesses, and governmental bodies, based on a shared vision and mutual responsibility.
  5. Reflecting Diversity and Fostering Renewal: This principle highlights the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the activities of community foundations. It focuses on understanding different perspectives and engaging a wide range of citizens in decision-making processes.
  6. Creating Effective and Creative Grant Programs: Community foundations should strive for appropriate flexibility, creativity, and responsiveness in their grant-making activities, ensuring visible and lasting positive impacts on communities.
  7. Building Community Assets and Promoting Philanthropy: This involves not only managing and growing endowments and other community assets but also helping donors achieve their philanthropic goals by providing flexible donation options and information about community needs.
  8. Evaluating and Sharing Results: Ongoing evaluation of activities and sharing key findings are crucial for improving skills and knowledge, as well as enhancing transparency and accountability.
  9. Implementing Responsive and Accountable Processes: Community foundations should conduct activities that are open, fair, flexible, and timely, maintaining trust and effectively managing community resources.
  10. Balancing Resources: It is necessary to balance human and financial resources across different activities of community foundations, such as fund development, grant-making, and community leadership.

Detailed Analysis

Principle 1: Building Community Capacity

The document asserts that building community capacity involves recognizing and supporting the existing talents, skills, and resources within the community. This approach, supported by scholars like John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann, shifts the focus from addressing deficiencies to enhancing strengths. Community foundations are encouraged to adopt this mindset in all their activities, from fundraising to grant-making.

Principle 2: Understanding Community Change

Community foundations need to be as flexible and well-informed as possible to effectively respond to changes. This principle suggests various strategies, such as conducting focus groups, tracking local and national trends, and actively participating in various community events to ensure that foundations remain connected and relevant.

Principle 3: Creating Opportunities for Dialogue

Fostering dialogue among different community members is essential for addressing complex social issues. This principle emphasizes the importance of bringing together people with diverse perspectives to promote understanding and cooperation.

Principle 4: Building Partnerships

Collaboration is key to maximizing the impact of foundations. By forming strategic partnerships with various stakeholders, community foundations can pool resources, knowledge, and expertise for more effective problem-solving in the community.

Principle 5: Reflecting Diversity and Fostering Renewal

Diversity is not only a value but also a necessity for effective community foundations. Engaging a broad spectrum of citizens in decision-making processes ensures that different perspectives are considered, leading to more sustainable and inclusive solutions.

Principle 6: Creating Effective and Creative Grant Programs

A successful grant program is characterized by its flexibility, responsiveness, and creativity. Community foundations are encouraged to continuously improve their grant-making processes to better and more quickly meet the needs of their communities.

Principle 7: Building Community Assets and Promoting Philanthropy

Building and managing endowments is central to the work of community foundations. This principle also underscores the role of community foundations in helping donors realize their philanthropic intentions through personalized and informed donation options.

Principle 8: Evaluating and Sharing Results

Transparency and accountability are emphasized through regular evaluation and dissemination of results. This practice not only improves organizational learning but also strengthens trust within the community.

Principle 9: Implementing Responsive and Accountable Processes

Adhering to fair, flexible, and timely processes is vital for maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of community foundations. This principle promotes practices that are transparent and accessible to all stakeholders.

Principle 10: Balancing Resources

Effective resource management ensures that community foundations can sustain their activities and maximize their impact on the community and donors. This principle calls for a strategic balance of efforts across different areas of activity.


“Principles for Community Foundations” is an excellent resource that can provide a clear and comprehensive framework for the work and development of community foundations. By adhering to these principles, community foundations can enhance their capacity to foster positive change, strengthen communities, and achieve their philanthropic goals. The document serves as a guide for founders or leaders of community foundations who aim to leave a lasting and meaningful impact.