The community foundation is a hybrid. Unlike its cousin, the private foundation (whose financial base most likely comes from a single donor, family, or company), the community foundation garners it support from the public. It grows because individuals, corporations, and even government entities and other nonprofits believe in it and help its continual growth year after year.
The community foundation is also unlike other nonprofit charities that focus on specific area of interest, such as health care, disaster relief, and the arts, or specific causes, such as poverty, heart disease, and the ballet. The support provided by a community foundation is not limited to one area. The community foundation looks to the well-being of the total community, no just one part of it.
Traditionally, a community foundation has four roles. It serves as a:
- Builder and caretaker of permanent community resources
- Service provider to donors
- Convener, catalyst, and collaborator within the community
However, because community foundations reflect the changing nature of their communities, they are often as different from one another as are the communities they serve. The mission or focus of a foundation will change depending upon its philosophy, stage of growth, and the size and composition of its asset base.