Community Foundations Expand Reach Globally

International giving by community foundations has grown in recent years, led by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) in particular as well as donor-advised funds (DAF).

A new report released yesterday examines the current and recent trends in international giving by community foundations. “Local Communities with Global Reach: International Giving by U.S. Community Foundations” is a joint effort by the Council on Foundations and Foundation Center.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • Grant dollars awarded by large U.S. community foundations for international programs more than doubled between 2011 and 2014, from $103 million to $223 million;
  • The average grant size grew by 78 percent, from $52,000 to $93,000, and the number of grants increased from 1,980 to 2,396, some 21 percent;
  • Eighty-five percent of community foundations made at least one international grant in 2014, compared with 67 percent in 2002;
  • About 92 percent of international grants were from donor or corporate advised funds and supporting organizations;
  • Almost 90 percent of global giving was channeled via U.S.-based grantees working overseas, with 8 percent awarded directly to the country of implementation; and,
  • The proportion of grant dollars awarded by U.S. community foundations to programs and recipients abroad increased from 3 percent in 2002 to 6 percent in 2006 and has remained relatively stable ever since.

“Community foundations have not been blind to the significant demographic changes occurring in the communities they serve,” said Bradford Smith, president of the New York City-based Foundation Center. “While they are appropriately thought of as place-based organizations with a fundamental focus on the health of the local community, they are equally committed to addressing the diverse needs of local constituents with increasingly global backgrounds,” he said.

In 2014, community foundations represented less than 1 percent of the total number of U.S. foundations but were responsible for 9.5 percent of the sector’s assets and 12.5 percent of total giving.

The report used Foundation Center’s dataset of 1,000 of the largest U.S. foundations from 2010 to 2014 to analyze international grants made by U.S. community foundations. During that time, foundations made 10,533 grants totaling almost $700 million. The report also features case studies of five community foundations engaging globally in different ways, including SVCF. The report also provides case studies of the Boston Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, Greater Houston Community Foundation and Seattle Foundation.

Since the 2007 merger of the Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation of Silicon Valley, SVCF has become the largest U.S. community foundation and one of the 10 largest U.S. foundations of any kind. Its assets have grown at an average annual rate of 17 percent over the last decade, from $1.7 billion at the time of the merger to more than $8 billion.

The foundation also is more proportionally focused on international grantmaking than any other community foundation. SVCF accounted for 44 percent of international giving by community foundations in 2014, about $98 million out of a total $223 million. Between 2010 and 2014, SVCF awarded $272 million to programs implemented outside the U.S., $223 million more than the Foundation for the Carolinas, the second largest international grantmaking community foundation over that period.

“The report highlights something that few are aware of, that community foundations are increasingly stewarding local philanthropy towards international activities,” Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based Council on Foundations, said in a press release. “This presents an enormous opportunity for cross-border collaboration between community foundations and local organizations building stronger communities around the world,” she said.