Civil Society

The Balancing Act: The Roles of a Community Foundation

Dorothy “Dottie” Reynolds, the author of The Balancing Act: The Roles of a Community Foundation, a set of three monographs by one of the sector’s most experienced leaders, has spent decades in the field of community-based philanthropy. Initially a senior staff member and CEO for community foundations in Ohio and Michigan, Reynolds has worked as a consultant for a number of philanthropic organizations.

“Our most recent technical assistance efforts have been largely undertaken by Dottie Reynolds, whom we came to know and admire when she served as the CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint,” wrote Mott Foundation President William S. White in a letter to readers.

“In this role, Dottie has provided advice and assistance to community foundations and support organizations in a number of countries throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.”

The monographs offer Reynolds’ reflections on community foundations, with a particular focus on the differences and similarities between community foundations in the U.S. and abroad. The monographs examine the roles of community foundations as grantmakers, as vehicles for local philanthropy and as community leaders.

According to Reynolds, community foundations in the U.S. are facing challenges arising from several factors, among these a slowdown in asset growth, competition from commercial gift funds and other philanthropic vehicles, growing questions about whether their philanthropy is sufficiently inclusive and serves disadvantaged populations adequately, and increased public scrutiny.

She says community foundations are philanthropic vehicles that serve donors not only of great wealth but also of more modest means. They encourage the democratization of philanthropy, serve as community conveners and as a representative voice for the interests of a community, and, most critically, as a flexible, long-term funder that can address changing local needs.

The publications explore the core functions of community foundations, which are local institutions that gather local resources to meet local needs under the direction of local leadership. Each publication addresses a specific topic: 1) community foundation as a grantmaker, 2) as a vehicle for local philanthropy and 3) as a community leader.

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