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


In the widely varying contexts of developed and developing countries, community foundation practice has been continually and remarkably improving over the years. The depth of experiences and learning has in several places led to a development of principles, setting of guidelines or standards, establishing accreditation or certification procedures or codes of practice. The Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support (WINGS) noted in its fourth Community Foundation Status Report:

  • As community foundations are adapted to the local culture and traditions of giving and become successful and increasingly mature organizations, there is within national networks a growing tendency toward less experimentation and greater consistency in their structure and function. This has led to the exploration of community foundation standards as a means to help define and further the field. (Eleanor Sachs, 2005 Community Foundation Status Report)

Of note, the WINGS-CF (Community Foundation) Advisory Committee held several discussions about the growing experience of networks and associations of community foundations. Specifically, the Committee looked into what information would be valuable to share widely to the WINGS network; what resources and tools about principles or benchmarks would be appreciated by different countries as they strived for good practice; what is the experience of associations of community foundations in developing the principles or values (as in the Community Foundations of Canada); or in setting standards and a certification process (as in the case of the Council on Foundations/National Standards Board, Community Foundation Network or the Association of German Foundations/Community Foundations Initiative).

Purpose of the Study

This is preliminary research that attempts to describe broadly, what is the practice in principles development/ certification/ benchmarking and to identify a number of experiences thus far.

The research output is an initial illustration of the practices done by community foundations in 9 countries, (7 with inputs from key informants), covering both broad (‘soft’) and specific (‘hard’) approaches2:

  • Broad approaches (‘soft approaches’): guidelines, principles, value statements, best practice guides, code of practice, manual of practice, assessment criteria and tools
  • Specific approaches (‘hard approaches’): certification, standards, benchmarks e.g, risk registers for members with grant-making contracts with support organizations

2Based on notes about the WINGS Peer Learning Event hosted by the Community Foundation Network and Charities Aid Foundation, held in London, May 20-22, 2005. This meeting was attended by 16 grantmakers both well-established organizations and newly formed entities.