At first glance the role of a community foundation appears very simple. Money in, money out and somewhere in between sits our grants process and due diligence checks. Donors can expect more for their money given the size of the voluntary and community market; there are so many good causes to choose from. So what value can community foundations add to donors and the local communities they support?  

Involvement in the local community: Community Foundations work alongside community groups and the local structures that support community action. In Gloucestershire, we attend relevant forums and make sure that our knowledge of the voluntary and community sector is up to date. Our national network enables us to look ahead, develop strategies for the future and think about solutions to the most complex problems affecting society.

Aggregated giving and Fund holders’ networks: the Gloucestershire Community Foundation manages 46 funds; these funds are invested to yield the best return possible and on an annual basis constitute a pot for grant-making. Most of these funds are Donor Advised Funds (DAF): the wishes of individual donors are respected, and our local knowledge enables the sourcing of suitable applications. The pooling of funds in this way reduces the costs of administration - not only for individual donors but also for community groups who only need to apply to one agency - it makes best use of strategic alliances and has a better chance of achieving real impact.

Sound governance: Gloucestershire Community Foundation (GCF) is run by a board of skilled volunteers who employ a professional team to execute the strategy. In a recent article, Karl Wilding of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations talks about “the need to double down on transparency and accountability and that Charities must explain that they want to be as efficient as the best businesses”. In my time at GCF, our Board made decisions on investments, staff pay and conditions, structure and other key decisions affecting the organisation. These decisions are made on the basis of research and analysis which take skills and due consideration for risks.

Probity and due diligence: The Charity Commission website lists 2748 charities in Gloucestershire alone, this number excludes social enterprises and community groups that are not registered. Navigating such a diverse and patchy playing field can be very time-consuming: the sector is made up of well-resourced charities with fundraising teams, charities who are good at marketing, charities that are passionate about what they do, charities that lack capacity to progress or change, charities that struggle to keep up with regulations and those which have benefitted from public sector contracts and have all their eggs in one basket. The diversity of the sector is what makes it unique and innovative. In the last 30 years since I started my career there has been more interconnectedness and interdependence, but we are still joining the dots. Knowing who is at the forefront of innovation, who will deliver and who is well managed is key to efficient giving. It pays to get it right and to deploy resources where they will make the most difference to beneficiaries.