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

Administrative fees assessed on funds are the primary source of revenue for community foundations and will be for the foreseeable future, though differences in revenue mix are observed in different asset size cohorts. Smaller community foundations, on average, depend more on direct fundraising to support operations and internal operating endowment/reserve distributions than larger foundations. Some diversification can be observed at individual community foundations seeking alternative means of funding, which in turn support emerging efforts such as community leadership and 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 63% 1% 15% 5% 11% 4%
$25-$50M 68% 0% 11% 5% 10% 6%
$50-$100M 70% 1% 10% 5% 10% 4%
$100-$250M 78% 1% 6% 3% 8% 4%
$250-$500M 78% 1% 4% 6% 4% 6%
$500M+ 73% 3% 4% 6% 5% 8%
All 71% 1% 9% 5% 8% 5%

Operational expenses

Differences in the proportion of personnel to non-personnel expenses are relatively minor when comparing community foundations of different sizes. Insofar as differences do exist can be observed in smaller community foundations, which may have very few staff.

All respondents

  • Personnel
  • Non-personnel
Size of foundation Personnel expenses Non-personnel expenses
$0-$25M 64% 36%
$25-$50M 63% 37%
$50-$100M 67% 33%
$100-$250M 68% 32%
$250-$500M 69% 31%
$500M+ 68% 32%
All 66% 34%

Surplus vs. subsidy

Fewer respondents reported expenses that were in excess of revenues earned (14%) than FY 2016 (22%), while just under half of all respondents reported surpluses. Gaps between revenues and expenses are typically covered by unrestricted funds, though this has an effect on the flexibility of a community foundation’s business model, including their ability to invest in foundation-operated initiatives and leadership.

  • Significant subsidy
  • Modest subsidy
  • Breakeven
  • Modest surplus
  • Significant surplus
Significant subsidy Modest subsidy Breakeven Modest surplus Significant surplus
Surplus vs. Subsidy 6% 12% 33% 31% 18%

Expense to asset ratio

Economies of scale at larger community foundations generally drive expense-to-asset ratios down, though it should be noted that individual operating models have a major influence on this metric. There are community foundations across the field that are interested in increasing their investment in community leadership, which would be one factor in increasing this ratio for many.

Field median: 1.2%

Funds per full-time equivalent

Larger community foundations tend to maintain relatively complex operating models. This, coupled with larger and more specialized staff, is reflected in those staff managing fewer funds.