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 are the main source of community foundation operating revenues field-wide. Larger community foundations are more likely to supplement fees with fee for service revenues, while smaller community foundations tend to do more direct fundraising to support operations. Community foundations often seek to generate surplus revenues that could be reinvested into community leadership 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 62% 3% 19% 6% 6% 5%
$25-$50M 70% 0% 10% 3% 10% 6%
$50-$100M 68% 0% 13% 5% 9% 4%
$100-$250M 73% 1% 11% 5% 6% 4%
$250-$500M 80% 0% 6% 0% 6% 8%
$500M+ 77% 5% 3% 5% 5% 5%
All 72% 2% 10% 4% 7% 5%

Operational expenses

It is typical for two-thirds of operating expenses to go toward staff capacity, regardless of the size of the community foundation.

All respondents

  • Personnel
  • Non-personnel
Size of foundation Personnel expenses Non-personnel expenses
$0-$25M 60% 40%
$25-$50M 63% 37%
$50-$100M 62% 38%
$100-$250M 70% 30%
$250-$500M 73% 27%
$500M+ 68% 32%
All 66% 34%

Surplus vs. subsidy

Just over one quarter of all annual survey participants reported any level of operating deficit in 2020 - which is unchanged from the year prior. For these community foundations, and more generally, operating deficits are covered by unrestricted funds, which limits their flexibility to invest in foundation-operated initiatives and community leadership.

  • Significant subsidy
  • Modest subsidy
  • Breakeven
  • Modest surplus
  • Significant surplus
Significant subsidy Modest subsidy Breakeven Modest surplus Significant surplus
Surplus vs. Subsidy 6% 12% 23% 41% 18%

Expense to asset ratio

The field median expense to asset ratio decreased slightly in 2020 from the year before (1.2 percent in 2019), though the median for small community foundations increased significantly over that same time, from 1.6 percent to 2.0 percent. As is generally the case, larger community foundations achieve an economy of scale that results in typically lower ratios than for smaller community foundations, though operating model differences at individual community foundations will have an impact on this metric.

Field Median: 1.1%

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.