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


General Experiences:

In 2011, the number of community foundations in the country reached ca. 300 with 225 receiving the Association of German Foundations‘ “Seal of Approval” which acknowledges religious and political independence among others. Most community foundations are members of one of the largest associations of foundations in Europe with more than 3,600 members collectively holding 80 percent of foundation capital in the country.20

The Association reported that since 1996, community foundations have continued to grow with generous support from donors. In October 2010, a WINGS survey counted about 29 community foundation euro-millionaires,21 growing to 35 in 2011, according to the Initiative Bürgerstiftungen / Community Foundations Initiative. Because of their programs (in education, youth, culture, etc) and dedicated volunteers and professional staff, community foundations have become a strong civil society force on the local and regional level.

In 2000, the Affinity Group of community foundations within the Association of German Foundations developed and agreed on the “10 Characteristics of a Community Foundation.” The document identifies who a community foundation is and its place in civil society (Characteristic 1), specifies its roles and responsibilities alongside donors and others, and denotes its internal workings that “distinguish for its transparency and accountability.” (Characteristic 10).

Certification of excellence

The 10 Characteristics of German Community Foundations have been used as the basis for awarding a two-year certification to qualified entities. After two years, a new certification process is undertaken independent of the previous awarding.

The annual deadline for applications is by the end of June. The requirements include the community foundation charter, official documents like the approval of the foundation or the annual report, and general information about projects and activities as evident in press reports and others.

With the proper legal documents, community foundations endeavour to apply for the Seal of Approval and be recognized in the national holiday for community foundations held every October first. A certificate of excellence is handed over in an official ceremony by the Chairman of the Association of German Foundations or the Chairman of the Affinity Group for community foundations.

In 2011, a majority of community foundations (225 of ca. 300 organizations) are currently carrying the certification.

19Report by Axel Halling, Initiative Bürgerstiftungen (Community Foundations Initiative)
21WINGS 2010 Community Foundation Global Status Report.