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

It will come at no surprise that administrative fees on funds act as the main driver of community foundation operating revenues. No asset size cohort, on average, acquires less than two-thirds of all operating revenue from admin fees. There will, however, be differences in the extent to which community foundations of different sizes depend on other sources of revenue. Smaller community foundations will rely on direct fundraising and internal distributions to support operations to a greater degree than larger community foundations, who will see slightly more revenue come from specialized fee for service work.

In addition to sustaining a community foundation's operating model, diversified revenue can help create the needed capacity to pursue 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 67% 1% 11% 7% 11% 4%
$25-$50M 68% 0% 11% 6% 10% 5%
$50-$100M 71% 1% 9% 4% 9% 5%
$100-$250M 80% 1% 5% 4% 8% 3%
$250-$500M 83% 2% 3% 3% 5% 4%
$500M+ 73% 3% 4% 6% 5% 10%
All 73% 1% 7% 5% 8% 5%

Operational expenses

Across the field, no significant differences in the breakdown between staff and non-staff expenses are observed. It's typical for two-thirds of operating expenses to go toward staff capacity.

All respondents

  • Personnel
  • Non-personnel
Size of foundation Personnel expenses Non-personnel expenses
$0-$25M 64% 36%
$25-$50M 64% 36%
$50-$100M 66% 34%
$100-$250M 67% 33%
$250-$500M 70% 30%
$500M+ 66% 34%
All 66% 34%

Surplus vs. subsidy

There was a slight decrease in the number of respondents who reported operating expenses in excess of revenues; 26 percent, down from 28 percent in FY17.

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 7% 11% 31% 37% 15%

Expense to asset ratio

It's typical to see a lower expense-to-asset ratio at larger community foundations where an economy of scale is achieved, though operating model differences at individual community foundations will have an impact on this metric. In combination with asset growth stagnation, a trend toward embarking on foundation-driven leadership efforts is resulting in higher expense-to-asset ratios across the field. Medians for three out of six asset size cohorts are higher than they were in FY17.

Field Median: 1.2%

Funds per full-time equivalent

Larger community foundations tend to maintain relatively complex operating models, requiring a higher number of specialized staff who will be less likely to manage donor funds.