Defending Place-Based Philanthropy by Defining the Community Foundation
56 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2017 Last revised: 14 Sep 2018
Date Written: March 26, 2017
The article is about the changing role of the community foundation in conducting philanthropy in the United States. The historic place-based mission of the community foundation is under threat, in part because of competition with national charities that, like community foundations, sponsor donor advised funds (DAFs). The mass-market success of national DAFs is putting pressure on community foundations to conform to a national, passive, individual-based model of advised giving. Community foundations also have become caught up in a legal and policy debate that is directed primarily at national, commercially affiliated DAF sponsors. As a result, community foundations risk becoming subject to rules and regulations devised for others. Part I of the article provides a historical overview of the tax-exempt status of community foundations. Part II shows how the settled wisdom on the tax status of community foundations has been upset by the rise of the nationally sponsored DAF, the extent to which community foundations are different from national DAF sponsors, and whether it would be beneficial to define the community foundation for tax purposes in order to make them more distinct. Part III then considers the possible content of a definition of the community foundation in terms of its purpose, governance, and operations, taking into account longstanding policy concerns about donor control of foundation assets and income accumulations. The article concludes that a strong affirmative Code-based definition of community foundation could help preserve place-based philanthropy.
Keywords: community foundation, DAFs, donor-advised funds, charitable deduction, charitable giving, payouts
JEL Classification: H2, H24, H29, H50, I00, L3, L38, L39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation