The growth of geographic affiliates at community foundations is transforming the landscape of community philanthropy across the United States. The first major study on geographic affiliates, Growing Local Philanthropy, was conducted by The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group in 2005 and found that among survey respondents, almost two-thirds currently have at least one geographic component fund. That number has continued to grow as this trend further takes root in the field.
In the paper “Seeking Shared Success: Business Model Innovation through Mergers, Affiliations, and Alliances: Stories and Insights From Across the Community Foundation Field,” created by CF Insights in partnership with the Community Foundations Leadership Team, Rebecca Graves and Hollie Marston discuss the benefits and barriers of affiliates and other models. The authors make the case that affiliate relationships have the potential to cut costs while maximizing specialized expertise, engaging donors, and strengthening community leadership, concluding “the message from seasoned community foundation executives experienced with alliances, affiliations, and mergers is clear: more community foundations should be open to new structural possibilities.”
So while community philanthropy professionals know they must continue to create sustainable and innovative models, there are challenges in establishing and maintaining affiliate relationships. There is not only great diversity in the legal structures but also in the messaging and marketing of these affiliates. This creates a complicated landscape for community philanthropy professionals and makes it critical that they understand these trends and equip themselves.
To help the field better understand these trends, The Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group has recently released a second field-wide survey. Janet Topolsky, John Molinaro, and Elsa Noterman will inform the field about the number, size, and types of affiliates on the upcoming Council on Foundations’ webinar, “Growing Local Philanthropy: The Role and Reach of Geographic Affiliates” on June 7 from 1 to 2:30 ET.
To better educate staff and volunteers at geographic affiliates, the Council on Foundations is unveiling a Center for Community Foundation Excellence (CCFE) - Community Foundations Affiliates Course. The course will cover the history of the community foundation movement and key geographic affiliates information. Additionally, participants can explore the affiliate and “host” role in community leadership, marketing, communications, and grantmaking. This course focuses on affiliates organized as geographic component funds. It will be held July 25-27 in Kansas City, Mo.
With new tools and resources about geographic affiliates for the field, community philanthropy has increased capacity to continue to innovate and expand. Join the June 7 webinar to learn about the field today in order to better imagine what the field can be like tomorrow.
Heather Scott is managing director of community foundation services for the Council on Foundations. Emily Watkins is coordinator of community foundation services for the Council on Foundations and served as co-author.