A New Interactive Snapshot of the Community Foundation Field

The CF Insights team would like to extend our gratitude to the 250+ community foundations who participated in this year’s Columbus Survey. Through your effort and willingness to contribute to our shared knowledge platform, CF Insights is ready to share the results of our fiscal year 2016 annual survey with the field and beyond. I am thrilled to announce that these findings are now in a brand new, interactive, and visually-driven Columbus Survey Results Dashboard, available at columbussurvey.cfinsights.org.

The Columbus Survey, known among community foundations as the field’s “annual census,” collects data to present a comprehensive current financial and operational snapshot of participating community foundations. This work allows us to report on community foundation activity over the last year and general growth trends year over year, as well as better understand how community foundations sustain their work using the most up-to-date information available anywhere. This dashboard captures the activity of over 90 percent of the estimated asset dollars held in the entire field.

The new Columbus Survey Results Dashboard is an exciting development for the field as we can now offer our annual, comprehensive snapshot data in a format that’s visually-driven and easy to understand. Additionally, we’ve built an interactive environment that allows the user greater control over which subsets of data are displayed. Finally, this platform will allow us to get this data and our analysis to those who need it, more quickly.

A few key findings did rise to the surface when analyzing the 2016 data:

Asset growth across the community foundation field was a bit more pronounced in 2016. After seeing asset growth stall across the field in 2015, 2016 Columbus Survey results show an uptick in change rates. The median increase in assets across the entire field of respondents was 5.2 percent, up from a virtually flat 0.7 percent the previous year.  Shades of an improving investment market may be at play, and it will be interesting to see next year whether this is the start of a new trend of overall growth.

The reported collective gift total received by the largest 100 community foundations in the U.S. by asset size increased to a new high of $8.2 billion. This increase is a significant bounce back from 2015 in which we saw a reported decrease for the first time since 2009, the height of the Great Recession.

Grantmaking for this sample, which has seen a steady increase for the fifth straight year, now totals $6.8 billion. This is not at all surprising as community foundations continue to grow in asset size and at the very least aim to maintain payout rates, but it should be noted that this figure does not include the several other ways in which foundations invest in their communities. Even while developing new special initiatives or engaging in advocacy and other community leadership activities, traditional grantmaking totals continue to grow.

Some key differences emerge among community foundations of different sizes. Smaller community foundations, often younger and focused on asset growth, are seen to have a much higher proportion of funds which are tailored for growth through investments, while larger community foundations are seen to have far higher proportions of pass-through funds. In addition, the proportion of assets in donor-advised funds tends to increase along with the overall asset size of the community foundation. These two factors can be reflective of the ability for larger community foundations to provide flexible grantmaking options to their donors.

In addition to key findings from this year’s survey, the Columbus Survey Results Dashboard will also feature our four top 100 rankings lists. Our Top 100 Community Foundations by Asset Size list shows the range in size even among those ranked, while Top 100 by Distribution Rate, Top 100 by Total (Gift & Grant) Transactions, and Top 100 by Gifts per Capita allow community foundations of all sizes to see how they are positioned in the field in various ways. These lists allow community foundations of all sizes to:

  • See how they are positioned in the field in various ways;
  • Determine how their foundation’s overall strategy aligns with their rankings; and
  • Allow foundations to enhance their visibility in their communities by sharing rankings with stakeholders and the public.

I invite community foundations and anyone looking to learn more about the current state of the field to check out the 2016 Columbus Survey Results Dashboard today to start exploring!

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 dar@foundationcenter.org or Diana Esposito, consultant, CF Insights at dce@foundationcenter.org. We invite everyone to join the conversation, and even more community foundations to join the effort to tell your story.

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