Building Community Capacity: The Potential of Community Foundations

Here's how to grow your endowment and leadership skills

Endorsed as essential reading in the field, this small book summarizes the workings and accomplishments of the Ford/MacArthur Leadership Program for Community Foundations.  The initiative, operated between 1987 and 1993, had many design features key to its successful results. The book details these features and contains lessons for growing community foundations and making them useful to communities.

  • For Grantmakers: The design of this program coupled with the quality of the participants showed it’s possible and even likely that a more established private foundation can stimulate the growth of less established and more local community foundations.  The book makes clear how they did it, essentially by incentivizing their community leadership by dangling a meaningful financial match on favorable terms, and offering long-ish term support and assistance.
  • For Activists: The concept of community capacity emerged from the experience of participating community foundations.  We see it as “the combined influence of a community’s commitment, resources, and skills which can be deployed to build on community strengths and address community problems.”  Increasing community capacity should be on the agenda of every community foundation.
  • For Evaluators: This evaluation inquiry made use of an “organizational capacity building framework” developed by this author and based on his earlier discoveries of growth factors in emerging community foundations.  With every site visit, both participants and evaluators filled in the framework with data and observations over a five-year period.
  • For Nonprofits: Almost every community in America, and increasingly throughout the world, has a community foundation eager to import project dollars and distribute them in support of local strategic goals.  This book shows how local nonprofits can make themselves attractive to such community-focused grantmaking.

Free download: Building Community Capacity: The Potential of Community Foundations (pdf)

See also: CF – The Magazine for Growing Community Foundations

Participating community foundations:

Round 1:

Arizona Community Foundation

Dade Community Foundation

Dayton Foundation

El Paso Community Foundation

Community Foundation of Greater Greenville

Community Foundation of Greater Memphis

Rochester Area Foundation

Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan

Round 2:

Baltimore Community Foundation

Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County

Madison Community Foundation

Greater New Orleans Foundation

Central New York Community Foundation

Greater Richmond Community Foundation

Spokane Inland Northwest Community Foundation

East Tennessee Foundation

Greater Triangle Community Foundation

Tucson Community Foundation

Round 3:

Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro

Delaware Community Foundation

Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation

Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation

Greater Santa Cruz County Community Foundation

Maine Community Foundation

Rockford Community Trust

Sacramento Regional Foundation

Vermont Community Foundation


Originally appeared:  A publication of Rainbow Research, Inc.

Number of pages: 222    Original date: 1994

Author: Steven E. Mayer, Ph.D.