Survey results


Staff and financial resources are important to monitor for smaller foundations who are looking to grow, and for larger foundations who are looking for the flexibility to diversify their offerings.

Revenue mix

While the basic community foundation operating model is supported mainly by administrative fees on funds, differences in the revenue mix do emerge among foundations of different sizes. Emerging and smaller community foundations rely more heavily on outside fundraising and distributions from endowments/reserves to support operations. The continued diversification of community foundation offerings has not, to this point, led to a significant shift in one's typical revenue mix. Continued growth in funds, supplemented by alternative sources of revenues, can provide the flexibility needed to drive foundation-led community efforts (e.g. community leadership or special initiatives).

All respondents

  • Administrative
  • Fees for service
  • Fundraising
  • Fundraising
  • Distribution from
  • Other revenue
Size of foundation Administrative fees Fees for service Fundraising: operations Fundraising: programmatic Distribution from endowment/reserve Other revenue
$0-$25M 66% 0% 10% 5% 11% 7%
$25-$50M 69% 1% 10% 3% 10% 7%
$50-$100M 65% 1% 12% 6% 12% 4%
$100-$250M 75% 1% 6% 6% 8% 3%
$250-$500M 80% 1% 5% 6% 4% 4%
$500M+ 77% 3% 4% 6% 4% 6%
All 71% 1% 8% 5% 9% 5%

Operational expenses

Staffing expenses typically make up around two-thirds of overall community foundation expenses, regardless of foundation size.

All respondents

  • Personnel
  • Non-personnel
Size of foundation Personnel expenses Non-personnel expenses
$0-$25M 64% 36%
$25-$50M 64% 36%
$50-$100M 67% 33%
$100-$250M 68% 32%
$250-$500M 69% 31%
$500M+ 68% 32%
All 66% 34%

Surplus vs. subsidy

A smaller portion of community foundations were seen to generate surplus revenue in 2016 than the 48% of respondents who did so in 2015. The amount of community foundations who essentially broke even rose over 10% from 2015. Gaps between revenues and expenses are typically covered by unrestricted funds, though this has an effect on the flexibility of a community foundation's operating model.

  • Significant subsidy
  • Modest subsidy
  • Breakeven
  • Modest surplus
  • Significant surplus
Significant subsidy Modest subsidy Breakeven Modest surplus Significant surplus
Surplus vs. Subsidy 8% 14% 40% 24% 13%

Expense to asset ratio

In general, economies of scale allow for community foundations to achieve relatively lower expense-to-asset ratios, though such a metric is heavily dependent on the operating model of the individual foundation. As those in the field move beyond simply being a grantmaker, we often see a fluctuation in this metric due to the need for individual community foundations to subsidize activities such as community leadership.

Field Median: 1.3%

Funds per full-time equivalent

The presence of specialized staff at larger community foundations, who generally possess relatively complex operating models, is reflected in the management of fewer funds per FTE.