Community foundations provide flexibility and expertise to donors who are committed to their local communities. They are local charitable entities that may administer a number of endowed funds primarily for local purposes, to solve community or regional problems, and to improve the lives of people in their geographic area.
The 19 community foundations in Connecticut cover virtually the entire state. They range from small foundations with no staff that generally serve one town, to foundations that serve many towns in a region and are among the largest of their kind in the country.
Because community foundations are public charities supported by donors from across the community, all cash contributions are allowed the maximum tax benefits (up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income). As a donor, you have several ways in which you can make a gift to a community foundation:
Unrestricted gift, the income from which is used where the foundation’s board of knowledgeable local leaders/volunteers deem it is most needed.
Field of interest fund, through which you support a particular area of interest like the arts, education or the environment. You may also elect that a specific charitable organization or organizations benefit from your gift.
Designated fund, through which you specify one or more charitable organizations to benefit from your gift.
Donor-advised fund, through which you can assign family members and others to join you in advising the foundation on how the income or principal from your fund should be distributed. (Note: The requirements about who can continue as your fund’s advisors after your death, and for how long, vary for different community foundations.) You can establish a broad purpose for your donor-advised fund, or specify a field of interest. Donor-advised funds can be set up by individuals, families or corporations.
The final decision on grant distributions rests with the board of trustees of the community foundation. Your fund is not subject to the excise tax and payout requirements of a private foundation (see private foundations).
A donor-advised fund can be established quickly and easily. While the community foundation will charge a small annual fee for administering your fund, research indicates that, depending on asset size, it is usually less expensive than the annual operating expenses of a private foundation.
You may also choose to support one of the other public foundations in your area. A typical public foundation is a public charity established to address a particular issue (for example, the environment) or support the needs of a particular demographic segment (for example, women and girls). Its geographic focus may be local, statewide, national, or international. Examples of public foundations in Connecticut include the Endowment Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and the Wilton Education Foundation.
Public foundations offer giving opportunities and tax advantages similar to community foundations. Community foundations are in fact a special kind of public foundation.
Directory of Community Foundations Serving Connecticut
A listing with main contacts and towns served.
Giving Story: Keiller Family Fund
Having an Impact Through a Community Foundation