Community foundations

By Stephen Hammersley, Chief Executive, UK Community Foundations from 2004-2014


  • Community foundations provide grant-making and administrative support and provide philanthropic advice to donors wishing to give locally.  
  • Community foundations’ funds are tax-efficient, cost effective and high impact.In 2013-14 community foundations in the UK supported over 2,000 clients who have made grants of over £65m to more than 21,000 charities and community groups.  Community foundations offer a variety of fund types to suit the donor’s own interests and financial situation.
  • Our goal is to help our clients become more effective in building thriving communities through their philanthropy.
Read more about Community foundations
Community foundations work with their clients to build financial and physical resources for local communities: developing funds to invest in projects with lasting impact that either meet basic social needs, or enhance the overall quality of community life.
Community foundations provide a service to their donors: helping them invest their money, time, and/or skills; matching their values, passions, or interests to the specific needs of their community to give delight, surprise, fun, and a sense of achievement.
Community foundations provide finance: giving assistance, or making investments and grants, to the widest possible range of community groups, organisations, or initiatives: providing essential services, supporting existing amenities, or investing in future opportunities.
Community foundations helps people work together in community leadership to solve problems. We help people learn and bring donors and those that fund together as partners to share their ideas on how to guide and enhance the future of their communities.
By October 2014, community foundations supported over 2,000 fundholders and collectively held £450m in endowment on their behalves.  In the year 2013-2014 they made grants of over £65m to more than 21,000 charities and community groups on behalf of a wide range of donors – individuals, families, businesses, charitable trusts and statutory bodies.
Community foundations have been active in the UK since the 1980s and have grown rapidly. There are now 48 community foundations quality accredited to standards endorsed by the Charity Commission.

UK Community Foundations: Unique Features

UK Community Foundations is unique because we are a registered charity that provides clients with a single access point to the UK’s network of community foundations providing companies, individuals, trusts, the lottery distributors and government access to:
  • Expertise – community foundations’ unparalleled insight into community needs, supported by their intimate local knowledge and access to contacts and relationships.
  • Connecting - our ability to integrate our donors into the very ‘fabric’ of their local communities, helping them become civic partners and champions.
  • Precision - matching our donor resources and interests to specific community opportunities, so their contribution is more meaningful, enjoyable and ‘beyond financial’. 
  • Investment-focus - whilst we act in the present, we focus on the future, taking a long-term view on our investments and supporting projects with sustainable impact
  • Results-driven - we are credible, reputable stewards of local resources, achieving our objectives, and being accountable, transparent, flexible and practical.
  • Leadership - our diverse knowledge and experience can be harnessed to create new ways of working, as well as strengthening existing work.


Case study: Leeds Community Foundation

William Alexander is an IT and Business Change Recruitment Consultancy, based in Hove. Established in 2010, they are continuing to grow year on year. William Alexander decided early on that they would like to be involved with local charitable giving and chose Sussex Community Foundation to enable this. They have set up an annual fund of £10,000 to make grants twice a year within Brighton & Hove to support causes close to their hearts. “This was always something we hoped to do. Fortunately, we are now in a position to be able to, with the help of Sussex Community Foundation,” says Director, Will Larcombe. “All of the employees at William Alexander live in the area and so are keen to give locally to smaller charities and groups where their ‘help can make a real difference’,” says Resourcer, Kate Hislop.

Next steps

You can find your local community foundation by going to the UK Community Foundations’ (UKCF) website for contact details and a web link to each UK community foundation. Community foundation staff will provide personalised advice and information on organisations working locally.

After making contact, donors will be invited to discuss with community foundation staff what they want to achieve, and how their fund should be structured to best achieve the desired results and impact.
Although all arrangements are bespoke, donors have several core options in giving through a community foundation: Donations can be pooled in a single, general fund, so that together they can contribute to a wide variety of causes in a specific area. Donations can be directed to themed funds, which address issues such as children or older people, donors can establish a separate, tailor-made named fund – the Donor Advised Fund.

About the Author

Stephen Hammersley was Chief Executive of UK Community Foundations (UKCF) from 2004 to 2014. He joined from Tearfund, where he was Director responsible for pro-poor enterprise and is now Chief Executive at Pilgrims Friend Society.  UKCF is the UK-wide association of community foundations.
This article was updated in January 2015

Glossary: community foundation