Family Philanthropy Playbook for Community Foundations

Unit 4: Community-Centered Measures

How might family philanthropy services impact the broader community? How might more actively generous families impact the community?


READ: Measuring the Impact of Family Philanthropy Services [members only]

As of the publishing of this toolkit, the field of community foundations has few answers to measuring the impact of family philanthropy services on the broader community.

TPI’s Measures of Success document (see Unit 1) suggested the services might increase:

  • The amount of philanthropic resources going to the community – essentially increasing giving per capita and/or stopping successor generations’ personal giving and advised grants from leaving the community
  • The number of active community leaders – as volunteers, nonprofit board members, activists, and even elected officials – and their ability and will to work collaboratively with the foundation and others on community problem-solving
  • The amount of philanthropic resources, current and endowed, dedicated to important community needs and to sustaining organizations. One proxy measure would be increased giving to charitable organizations’ endowments at the community foundation or elsewhere.

READ: Measuring Community Giving

Increasing the flow of philanthropic resources to a community—whether or not through the foundation—may be a community foundation’s greatest legacy. However, it isn’t easy to measure, especially as more giving goes through DAFs at national entities and crowdfunding sites. Before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the best proxy was per capita giving of residents who itemized their deductions. Three sources of per capita giving are:

  • CF Insights Columbus Survey – The annual survey of community foundations displays for the top 100 gifts per capita, calculated by dividing the foundation’s total gifts (including supporting organizations) by the population of its self-defined service area.
  • Generosity for Life Map Tool – This Lilly Family School of Philanthropy tool displays giving and volunteering rates from 2001 to 2015 at a state level, and can also be filtered by type of organization. The data comes from its comprehensive, longitudinal Philanthropy Panel Study.
  • How America Gives (subscription required) – The October 2017 version of this Chronicle of Philanthropy study shows: the change in giving from 2012 to 2015 by taxpayers who itemize deductions, the giving ratio (a geography’s total contributions as a share of its total adjusted gross income) for states, counties, and metro areas, and more.

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