Community Philanthropy Around the Globe

I recently returned from the Council on Foundations 2014 Conference for Community Foundations, held in Cleveland, Ohio. This year’s conference attracted over 1,400 staff and board members from community foundations around the world. Besides being home of the famous Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland is the site of the world’s first and oldest community foundation, founded 100 years ago by banker and lawyer Frederick H. Goff. Mr. Goff was a pioneer with his innovative idea to form a community foundation – a permanent charitable organization created by and for a community of people. While community foundations began in the United States, the idea quickly spread to other countries.

Did you know that there are over 1,800 community foundations worldwide? And the majority of those are outside of the United States!

Participants at this year’s conference hailed from community foundations in Mexico, Kenya, Ukraine, Haiti, Ireland, Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Latvia, among others. As a former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Central America, I am very interested in the work of grassroots philanthropy and development around the world. That’s why I was especially excited to hear of a groundbreaking international project that was unveiled at the conference, the Community Foundation Atlas.

The Atlas’s purpose is to inform community philanthropy around the globe. It is a joint project of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support), the Foundation Center and the Cleveland Foundation. The project is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The Atlas allows you to see where community foundations are located worldwide on an interactive map. You can pinpoint community foundations in a specific country or region on the map or search a comprehensive directory for organizations of particular interest. The Atlas also contains infographics, charts and analysis based on the data gathered in creation of the project. Finally, the Atlas contains stories from individual community foundations and how they are working to make their communities better places to live.

Your very own community foundation – The Alaska Community Foundation – is featured in the Atlas! As I reflect on my first two months at ACF, I am proud to be part of this global movement toward homegrown philanthropy and local community development. The Atlas’s map, which highlights all 1,827 community foundations, is an impressive reflection on how far the community foundation movement has come in the 100 years since its beginnings in Cleveland. I am glad Alaska and ACF are part of this global effort to improve our world, one community at a time.

Watch the introductory video for the Community Foundation Atlas!