U.S. Community Foundation Asset Growth Accelerates

The CF Insights team is happy to announce that the latest results from the Columbus Survey of community foundations reflecting fiscal year (FY) 2017 are now available! Nearly 270 community foundations answered our call and participated in what many refer to as the “annual census of the field.” These contributions are what make up the results which can be accessed via our newly refreshed, interactive Columbus Survey Results Dashboard.

Through the annual Columbus Survey, hundreds of community foundations share financial and operational data to help inform a widely disseminated snapshot of the field. It’s through this effort that we can compile the activity of over 90 percent of the estimated asset dollars held in the field, while also providing the most up-to-date look at the current state of the field available anywhere.

Last year, this snapshot was presented as an entirely online, visually-driven resource for the first time. The response to the new Columbus Survey Results Dashboard was overwhelmingly positive, and thanks to the feedback we received from the field, our talented web development team was able to implement a number of enhancements that will allow us to better emphasize the data driving the visualizations.

Several key findings were uncovered during the analysis of the FY 2017 dataset:

Asset growth has accelerated across much of the community foundation field, with aggregate and individual community foundation increases much more pronounced than they were in 2016. After 2016 saw its own uptick in asset growth following a stalled 2015, community foundations reported total assets of over $91B, a 19 percent increase from the year before. The median survey respondent saw an asset increase of 12.6 percent. Market conditions were able to foster such growth, continuing a trend started in 2016. Whether that remains the case next year will be interesting to track. Bar graph depicted increase in median change in assets from 2016 to 2017

Gifts and grants reported by the largest 100 community foundations in the U.S. both reached new highs for the second straight year. 98 of the largest 100 foundations reported that gifts received totaled just under $9 billion, while grants given neared $8 billion, increases of 11 and 15 percent, respectively.

Line graph depicting total gifts and grants reported by the largest 100 community foundations from 2008 to 2017

A key difference among community foundations of different sizes is the level of dependence on direct fundraising, as well as distributions from operating endowments and reserves, to support operations. At least 20 percent of operational revenues supporting community foundations $100M in asset size and under come from these two sources, while larger community foundations see more revenues come from several different sources. Across all asset size bands, administrative fees remain the main driver of operating revenues, generating two-thirds or more of all revenues in most cases.

The Columbus Survey Results Dashboard also features our four top 100 rankings lists. In addition to Top 100 Community Foundations by Asset Size, we rank the Top 100 by Distribution Rate, Top 100 by Total (Gift & Grant) Transactions, and Top 100 by Gifts per Capita.

These lists allow community foundations of all sizes to:

  • See how they are positioned within the field in various categories;
  • Determine how their foundation’s overall strategy aligns with their rankings; and
  • Enhance their visibility in their communities by easily sharing rankings with stakeholders and the public via different social media channels, a brand new function added this year!.

Anyone looking to learn more about the current state of the field is welcome to explore our Columbus Survey Results Dashboard today at columbussurvey.cfinsights.org!

Join us for a free webinar about the results on June 28, 2018 at 2pm ET.

If you’d like more information about this or any of our other resources, or would like to receive updates about CF Insights, visit cfinsights.org or e-mail me at [email protected]. We invite everyone to join the conversation, and even more community foundations to join the effort to tell your story.

About the author(s)

Director, CF Insights