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


General Experiences:

The community foundation movement in Canada involves more than 178 organizations who are members of Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), a national network established in 1992 that has maintained a strong focus on communities, their needs and aspirations. In 2009, CFC reported that of $ 2.85 billion in assets of community foundations around the country, $ 140.6 million grants were provided to communities.7

10 Principles


Strong, vital communities are those in which everyone can participate. They are resourceful and resilient. Community foundations nurture and build our community’s strengths and assets. We respond to challenges and opportunities and support organizations and individuals to do likewise. We develop local leadership, invest in sustainability, champion justice, and mobilize civic participation and resources.


Sweeping changes to the economy, the environment and demographics are just some of the trends affecting our country and our communities. We actively participate in the life of the community, continually engage in consultation and discussion, track and report on local and national trends and respond to change.


Nurturing a vital community means reaching out and ensuring that people with different experiences and points of view are included, especially those who are often excluded. We bring people together to create opportunities for respectful dialogue and joint problem solving. We enthusiastically participate when invited to dialogues convened by others.


More can be accomplished when we act together. We believe in the power of collaboration and joint action to maximize our community‘s opportunities and respond to our challenges. We initiate, participate in, and support partnerships that build community vitality and are based on shared vision and mutual responsibility.


We believe philanthropy has a role to play in addressing some of the most pressing issues of our time. We tackle tough problems on many fronts through our grantmaking, investments, research, convening, communication and participation in the public policy process. We work with other foundations, organizations, business and governments in our region and across the country on problems that require shared action.

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CFC and its members have used a set of Principles that over time has been fully developed and well communicated in publications and documents to the network. A ‘common language’ has also been developed by CFC and its members to express the special roles and characteristics of community foundations. Emphasis has been placed on the way community foundations must work through ‘accountable, responsive and transparent governance.’

Promoting Principles

“CFC has gone the way of principles rather than standards,” says Jane Humphries, Vice President of the Community Foundations of Canada. Ms. Humphries also emphasized the “…use of a checklist, Criteria for Membership in CFC ( which relates to policies and criteria that community foundations need to have in place in order to be members in good standing with CFC. This is a different approach than the one used in the United States, which is based on meeting set standards.”

CFC‘s use of principles and criteria for membership is better appreciated in light of the nature of the relationship of CFC and its members. Monica Patten, CFC‘s past President and CEO, explains that every community foundation is incorporated as an independent entity, and is therefore autonomous from CFC and other community foundations8. A local volunteer Board of Directors makes the decisions on matters affecting operations and also on its involvement in CFC. The nature of the relationship between CFC and the membership base means that CFC has no powers over the members, except the power to influence. CFC has used this influence to encourage members to strive for excellence in all its undertakings. CFC supports ‘Vital Signs’ an annual community check-up conducted by community foundations across Canada that measures the vitality of cities, identifies significant trends, and assigns grades in at least ten areas critical to quality of life. This indicator program has informed granting priorities and encouraged better giving.

6Based on email communication with Jane Humphries, Vice President, Community Foundations of Canada. Supported by web-based research.

7Johnson, Global Institutional Philanthropy :A Preliminary Status Report 2010, WINGS and The Philanthropic Initiative.

8by M. Patten, Case Study: Community Foundations of Canada, Case Studies of Grantmaker Associations Around the World, Vol. 1, by Council on Foundations and Community Foundations of Canada for Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support, 2002.