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

Role of the Community Foundations Initiative

“Initiative Bürgerstiftungen” (IBS) or the Community Foundations Initiative (CFI) was formally launched in December 2001 to serve as a coordinative mechanism for know-how and consulting about community foundations.22 The CFI is an “CF-association within” the Association of German Foundations.

In support of the process of establishment and certification of new foundations especially in the Eastern federal states, the Community Foundations Initiative (CFI) helps individuals and groups put together the charter exactly according to law, because as Axel Halling of the CFI emphasizes, later amendments are “difficult once the foundation is set up.”

Once established, newly founded entities seek CFI‘s further assistance in applying for the Seal of Approval. Axel Halling commented that the Seal has unified the development of community foundations in a short time.

  • “The Seal of Approval has proven to keep a high standard of quality among the existing community foundations in Germany…Certification is not only appreciated by the community foundation because of the official ceremony, but also because of the document itself, which is usually proudly presented in its office and used for public relations.”

He observed further that despite the economic crisis, community foundations continue to increase. In early 2010, however, it seemed that several community foundations were not applying for the Seal. Among them were those founded by municipal administrations or those who closely relied on banks, financial corporations or religious background. Part of the reason was they would need to change their charter to comply with the 10 Characteristics, which they did not opt to do. In light of this, Axel Halling reiterated the importance of the advocacy work of CFI, to push for the correct establishment of community foundations according to German law.

The 10 Characteristics and Certification


A community foundation is an independent, autonomous, non-profit foundation of citizens for citizens with an ideally broad purpose. The foundation works sustainably and long term for a community in a geographically defined area, and generally acts in the interest of all the citizens in its catchment area.

  1. A community foundation is non-profit and works to strengthen communal living. It sees itself as part of a self-determined civil society.
  2. A community foundation is generally established by more than one donor. An initiative for its establishment can also issue from an individual or a specific institution.
  3. A community foundation is economically and politically independent. It is not tied to any one confession or political party. A dominant single donor, party or company will be rejected. Political groups and administrative heads are not permitted to assert their influence on decisions.
  4. The community foundation's field of action is geographically defined to a city, rural district or region.

22Amorim, Luis, “Community Philanthropy in Europe: New Approaches to Revitalizing Community Life.” European Foundation Centre, 2002.