Over the past 20 years, we have defined community foundation work in Canada through three fundamental roles: endowment building and donor service, grantmaking and community leadership.
We have worked hard to build our assets and forge strong relationships with new and existing donors. But it is the third of these core roles – community leadership – that has challenged us the most.
Each of us thinks about and defines community leadership in a different way. And each community foundation, as an organization, thinks about, and defines, our community leadership role, in a different way. There are lots of reasons for this including the fact that ‘community leadership’ is an inherently vague concept – exactly what IS it, anyway?
We are all passionate about our communities. We all believe that those communities have inherent strengths and assets that we can build on. We all believe that community foundations are a powerful vehicle for good.
We also share common ground with our ability to be effective community leaders, whether that’s through convening, developing local knowledge, working with like-minded partners or finding creative solutions to shared challenges.
The global economic decline has brought some of our assumptions into question. For most of us, our assets have declined with declining markets. The ability to do grantmaking has therefore lessened, too. And with fewer assets to manage, and less money to grant to community organizations, some community foundations are asking, 'so what do we do now?'
The opportunity for community foundations to be community leadership organizations has never been more apparent; the need for our community leadership abilities has never been more profound. The challenges our communities face are deep. And we have the power to convene, to collaborate, to bring 'strange bedfellows' together, to mobilize philanthropy in creative ways, and to engage parties in meaningful dialogue, around complex issues.
If we stop and think about how we spend our time as a community foundation, about where our resources are going, about the power and potential of our role as a funder, catalyst, convener, partner and (sometimes) leader...then almost invariably we are doing community leadership. We just need to think about it that way.
The information in this section is designed to act as a planning tool for your foundation; below you will find a full report to take away, ponder and share with others in your foundation.
This diagram may be a place to start in thinking about community leadership at your foundation (hover over each button to read more):
This page offers just a brief taste of a larger document that we have prepared for you to download, print, email to your Board, read, review and share in your foundation.
Download the full planning tool here:
A Community Leadership Framework for Canadian Community Foundations
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.