How are we serving the needs of community foundations?

It’s been a busy year for CF Insights, the leader in data collection and research for the community foundation field in the United States. In its third year at Foundation Center, CF Insights continued to serve its dedicated and engaged membership, collaborated with partner organizations to release groundbreaking research on the role of infrastructure organizations in supporting the field, and launched a free collection of resources.

Listen to David Rosado, our Member Services Manager, CF Insights, talk about the Columbus Survey.



The driving question behind CF Insights’ work is simple: What if each community foundation could know what all community foundations collectively know? To help answer this question, CF Insights conducts an annual survey of community foundations, which many refer to as the “census of the community foundation field.” The so-called Columbus Survey helps provide a publicly available, up-to-date financial snapshot of the field. The idea behind it is, yep, you guessed it, transparency. While we historically published a text-driven report of findings, we decided to provide something more visually-driven. David Rosado, member services manager of CF Insights, says “We moved from a PDF publication to an interactive, online dashboard. It’s designed to more readily provide our findings in a visual format, and I’m excited to get this out into the field.”

Thank you to the 253 community foundations (who collectively manage over 90 percent of U.S.-based community foundation assets) that contributed to our FY 2016 dataset!

The Columbus Survey Dashboard brings the data to life, making it easy to understand and accessible to a wider audience. Among other findings, the Dashboard allows users to follow the growth trajectory of the field’s asset, gift, and grant totals over the past several years, understand the breakdown of community foundation revenue sources, and compare community foundations of varying asset size in several different ways. For example, the data show that community foundation assets reached a total of more than $91 billion in 2017, after a year of negligible growth in 2015. While there was asset growth, it remained comparatively modest compared to previous survey periods. The Dashboard continues to evolve to deliver what’s most relevant to the field and we have some great enhancements queued up this year for added functionality.

You don’t have to be a CF Insights member to participate. We just finished collecting survey responses and posted them for our FY 2017 report. Read more >

A trend we’ve observed over the past decade is that the role of community foundations continues to evolve, with several continuing to expand beyond their roles as grantmakers to also serve as conveners and community leaders. As philanthropy-serving organizations, we need to make sure that we keep up and continue to support them in the best way possible. That’s why, in 2017, CF Insights, in collaboration with CFLeads, published Assessing Community Foundation Needs and Envisioning the Future. The report assesses the current state of community foundations, identifies needs and aspirations, and lays out specific next steps for both community foundations and philanthropy-serving organizations to better serve those needs.

In collaboration with IssueLab, CF Insights also launched the Community Foundation Knowledge Center, a new home for the latest research from and about community foundations, all in one place. The collection features more than 400 titles for you to explore including the two mentioned above.

Did you know you can curate your own knowledge center using IssueLab? Learn more >

When they’re not conducting groundbreaking research for the field, CF Insights staff ensures that their members receive the best possible service by assisting them in applying data and conducting deeper analysis in their areas of interest. Katie Wright, executive director of Park City Community Foundation, shares, “CF Insights benchmarking tools enabled us to frame our community foundation’s operations and growth. This information is empowering us to make better decisions and deepen our impact. Working with David at CF Insights is an absolute pleasure. He is quick to provide specific data, and worked with us cheerfully on a quick turnaround presentation for our annual retreat. He also brings significant knowledge and context to bear on the data — giving you the power not only to ‘see’ the numbers, but to put them to work in your own community’s context. Next up we’re using the Economic Scenario Planning toolkit. Thank you CF Insights!”

A CF Insights membership includes customized reports such as peer benchmarking dashboards. Read more >

All of the data collection and research that goes into producing the reports CF Insights shares with the field allows us to learn along the way and continue to evolve our offerings. In addition to being great resources for the sector, the reports we published helped CF Insights gauge the changing needs of the field, and assess how we can continue to help the field move forward.

Explore More:
Columbus Survey Dashboard >
Columbus Survey Dashboard Webinar >
CF Insights Knowledge Center >
Assessing Community Foundation Needs and Envisioning the Future Report >
Benefits of being a CF Insights Member >