The Community Foundation Story

Community Foundations have been in existence for over 100 years during which time they have become a global philanthropic movement, operating in over 1,800 communities worldwide

How it all began

The first community foundation was set up in America in 1914, as a way for the Cleveland Trust Company to manage multiple small endowments for the benefit of Cleveland. Like other philanthropists at the time, they had trouble finding beneficiaries for their grants, and needed to improve efficiency. Their solution was to design a model that would look at the root causes of problems in communities instead of being cause specific, engage local people decision making and be more efficient. This is the model we have today: multiple small endowments, held by community foundations. These endowments are increasingly important to communities when other sources of funding are reducing.

Man siting on bench playing a small guitar Cloth Cat Music, supported by Leeds Community Foundation

Community foundations in the UK

The UK chapter of the community foundation story began in Swindon in 1975, later merging with the Wiltshire Community Trust to form the present Wiltshire Community Foundation. Many other community foundations were formed in during the 1980s and in 1991 the Community Foundation Network was established to encourage cooperation and to share best practice.

In 2013 the network relaunched as UK Community Foundations. We now have 47 accredited members who have completed our rigorous quality assurance process and, between them, serve every community in the UK. Our members vary in size – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have a single community foundation, many community foundations have a county boundary and others serve a smaller, defined metropolitan area. What they all have in common is a deep understanding of the places they serve and a commitment to making them better places for everyone to live, work and thrive.

Our network

Find your local community foundation


Our international members

We are also pleased to have two international members, Jersey Community Foundation and Bermuda Community Foundation, with whom we share best practice and ideas to encourage local philanthropy and effective grant making.

Group of woman holding a mix of laptops and tablets smiling at the cameraBlack Butterfly, supported by Sussex Community Foundation (Picture: Darren Cool)

Sharing our data

We are publishing our data on 360Giving in our commitment to sharing transparent data. Learn more

Transfer your trust

UK Community Foundations is working in partnership with the Charity Commission for England and Wales to enable this to happen and support trustees throughout the whole process. Learn more

Corporate partnerships

We work with businesses, locally and nationally, who want to give back to the communities they serve. Our members have a unique understanding of local needs and offer an easy, effective and transparent way for businesses to invest in their communities with maximum impact Learn more