The Various Tools and Processes that Community Foundations Use to Improve Practice

An Accreditation-like Process

The setting up of community foundations in Australia initiates potential founders to a long process required for the formation and operation of a charitable and tax exempt organization. This process, though not an accreditation, is similar to one given its requirements.

A Community Foundation Development Officer from Philanthropy Australia, to which all community foundations belong, assists in this process, specifically to clarify what a community foundation is and how it operates.

The steps involved in setting up a community foundation are guided by a manual developed from the Canadian manual.

Milestones in the setting up of a community foundation are:

  • A feasibility study is conducted to determine the likelihood of success for the community foundation.
  • Constitution documents and Trust Deeds, as prepared pro bono by lawyers, Freehills, are provided to the start up organization in compliance with the requirement that all community foundations operate under a company structure which acts as the Trustee of the Trusts. The company is registered with Corporate Affairs and Trust Deeds approved and endorsed by the Australian Tax Office to allow the Foundation to accept tax deductible gifts (to the donor).
  • The setting-up period closes with the community foundation having a board responsible for a trustee company (as legal entity) with a properly registered tax exempt Public Fund giving the community foundation the status of a deductible gift recipient (DGR).

Standards and Quality Control

Once the community foundation is operating, it is required to file an annual report with Corporate Affairs and to have an Annual General Meeting where Audited Accounts are tabled and approved.

Once a year, the Community Foundation Forum is held offering sessions on legal issues, tax, and grant making to ensure grants are made to the appropriately structured not-for-profits. The Forum is a "major quality control check point.”

A listserve online system is maintained by Philanthropy Australia. The listserve allows inquiries or topics of interest to be discussed by the collective.

Andrew Lawson, commented that there is ‘quality control’ over key aspects of operations:

  • We are not at the stage where our community foundation network actively is benchmarking, certifying and giving accreditation. [We are also not] well enough resourced to carry out sophisticated benchmarking [but] we work to ensure there is a good degree of "Quality Control” regarding key aspects of operation such as donor development and grant making.