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Learn how community foundations work and can help you achieve your charitable goals in the short video below.

What is a community foundation?

You may have heard of a community foundation — but may not know what it is, or how it differs from other foundations or nonprofit organizations.

Community foundations bring together the financial resources of families, individuals and organizations who care about a specific place and then invest those resources back into the community.

The role of a community foundation is to meet the specific and unique needs of the places and people they serve — and for the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, that’s Minnesota and all who call it home.

How Does a Community Foundation Work?

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What is a community foundation? The truth is no two community foundations are alike, because no two communities are exactly the same.

The role of a community foundation is to meet the specific and unique needs of the places and people they serve. Community foundations bring together the financial resources of families, individuals and organizations who care about a specific place and then invest those resources in that community and the people who live there.

At the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, we are committed to investing in Minnesota, in creating an equitable, just and vibrant state where all communities and people thrive.

How does a community foundation work? How you interact with a community foundation may look very different depending on the role you play in your community. Many donors and their families choose to partner with a community foundation to fulfill their charitable giving goals. Our local, experienced team will work with you and your advisors to create a personalized giving plan that amplifies your impact on your favorite causes. We accept and process donations in many forms, including assets such as real estate and business interests that nonprofits can't always accept on their own. We also offer a popular giving tool called a donor advised fund. Donors make gifts to the Foundation, receive a tax deduction the year that gift is made and then, with their families, they can recommend grants from that fund to their favorite nonprofit organization for years to come.

If you're a professional advisor, you want to provide the best, tax-smart options to meet your clients' needs, including their charitable giving goals. You know your clients and we know the community. Together we can map out the best plan for your clients to realize their charitable goals and plan for their future.

If you represent a nonprofit, the Foundation offers a variety of grant opportunities and capacity building resources for organizations serving Minnesota. Our team also provides professional management of endowment funds and other long-term assets to ensure the longevity of your organization. If you're a community leader, we partner with organizations across sectors and across the state to drive sweeping change in racial equity, housing, education and many other pressing issues. Together we can maximize our impact.

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation — where giving grows. Learn more about how your gifts can transform your community and make Minnesota better for all who call it home.

A community foundation plays a vital role in the community – helping resolve issues and invest in innovative ideas that better a specific geographic area or affinity group. Community foundations vary in size and services based on their local needs. This can include small community foundations that support a town or a statewide community foundation like ours.

The Ways We Serve the Community

At the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation we carry out our aspiration and purpose by providing financial support through grantmaking, support to nonprofit partners, and assistance to donors fulfilling their giving goals.


The support community foundations offer comes in a variety of ways to grow nonprofit organizations, initiatives and programs. Like private foundations and corporate foundations, community foundations often support nonprofits in the form of grants, but can also include collaborative partnerships and resources for nonprofits to meet their mission and sustain their work. At the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, we invest in and partner with agents and agencies of change who work daily to address issues that are most pressing to their communities.

Every community foundation customizes their services for their local community’s needs. At the Foundation we work with nonprofits to establish and grow their endowment funds in order to build long-term financial stability.


Often donors turn to a community foundation when they want to have an increased charitable impact and guidance from philanthropic advisors who know the community.

Foundations like ours provide a variety of charitable giving tools. One of the most common ways for donors to organize their giving is with a donor advised fund (DAF). A DAF is a giving tool that provides donors with the flexibility to recommend grants to multiple causes and organizations; with DAFS, people can engage more than one generation of their family in giving. One of the benefits of having personalized service is that the Foundation can help donors select the best fund type for their charitable goals.


We work with financial advisors, attorneys and other professional advisors to help them assist their clients in investing in the future of their communities. By working with the Foundation, their clients are joining forces with Minnesota’s largest community foundation. We work with advisors and their clients to create a charitable giving plan that matches their goals.

To learn more about how we work with these different partners, read our 101 series.

Read Grantmaking 101

Grantmaking 101

Learn how the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation invests in community-led solutions through grant opportunities.

Learn More
Read Nonprofits 101

Nonprofits 101

Learn how the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation partners with nonprofit organizations to strengthen our community.

Learn More
Read Donor Relationships 101

Donor Relationships 101

Learn how the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation partners with donors to invest in our community.

Learn More

Top 5 Reasons to Partner with a Community Foundation

Now that you know what a community foundation is and does, here are five unique benefits to partnering with a community foundation to achieve your charitable goals.

  1. We offer our donors a personalized level of service tailored to their needs.
  2. We provide donors with localized community expertise.
  3. We provide donors with education and learning opportunities.
  4. We can help donors manage their long-term legacy.
  5. We accept a wide range of assets.

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