A community foundation is a tax exempt, nonprofit, publicly supported organization that empowers donors to strengthen their community, one passion at a time. The common mission of every community foundation is to enhance the quality of life in the local area. Building permanent endowment funds and using a portion of the annual income, community foundations support a variety of local nonprofits through grants and special projects.
A community foundation is governed by a board of community leaders and is administered by professional staff. Operating expenses are paid from a modest annual fund fee – 1% of fund balance – and from gifts designated by donors to cover foundation operating and program costs. The community foundation adheres to an investment policy established and approved by its Board of Directors.
We offer the best tax advantages for charitable donations available under law. As a publicly supported nonprofit, 501C3 organization, we are able to offer greater tax advantages than a private foundation.
All community foundations are independently organized and operated. There are 32 community foundations in Florida. Just as we serve Marion County, each community foundation is defined in part by serving a specific geographic area.
- DESIGNATED AGENCY FUNDS – A charitable giving vehicle administered by the Foundation and created for managing gifts. Donors may receive an immediate tax benefit and award grants from the fund over time. Donors also have the ability to remain anonymous if they choose.
- DONOR-ADVISED FUNDS – Donors may periodically recommend to the Foundation a distribution be made to a specific nonprofit. These are especially suited to donors with a variety of charitable interests and a desire to be involved with philanthropy. They are an attractive alternative to establishing a private foundation, which is typically less efficient and more costly. Corporations often partner with community foundations to streamline the administrative cost of corporate giving.
- ENDOWMENTS (Agency or individual) – Donors and agencies have the opportunity to fund areas of needs in perpetuity. Endowments allow the organization to access the earnings of the fund on an annual basis while preserving the core investment for the future.
- SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMS – This option allows donors to create new scholarships honoring loved ones without the complexity and expense of establishing and administering scholarships separately. We accept donations of any size to support existing scholarship funds, including our general scholarship program. We ask donors interested in establishing new scholarship funds to seek our assistance in designing the new funds.
- DESIGNATED AGENCY PASS-THROUGH FUNDS – These gifts, typically for a capital campaign, allow donors the convenience of one donation while providing agencies the ability to maximize earnings, still having access to liquid assets.
Generally, a gift of $5,000 is required to establish an active fund. There are higher minimums for certain types of funds such as scholarships. Funds can be established with a smaller gift and a pledge to reach the minimum requirement within five years. No grants or scholarships will be distributed from the fund until the minimum requirement is met.
Outright gifts of cash, real estate, securities and/or personal property can be donated. You may also make a bequest by will/trust, life insurance or retirement plan assets.
The community foundation’s mission is very broad, allowing for flexibility to partner with a variety of nonprofits to meet the giving interests of a wide group of donors. Area nonprofits benefit from having a local community foundation because the community foundation helps money stay in a community. Community foundations benefit local nonprofits by managing an endowment on their own behalf. We call such funds “agency endowment funds.”
Both organizations are important resources to Marion County. Some have described the differences by suggesting the United Way is more like the community’s checkbook, raising and distributing money annually, while the Foundation is more like a charitable savings account, distributing grants from a long-term fund in perpetuity. The United Way focuses on education, financial stability and health, while the Foundation’s scope of funding is much broader and includes working in areas such as economic development, education, the environment, community betterment, the arts and culture, animal needs as well as health and human services. Community foundations also focus on attracting and managing permanent endowments for nonprofits. Locally, the Community Foundation views the United Way as a tremendous partner in strengthening Ocala/Marion County.
Our Community Foundation offers two primary benefits:
- We help raise the level of local giving, keeping more charitable dollars in the local community. It is our aim to build a local source of charitable capital that will become a steady, long-term resource for Marion County.
- We help to ensure that charitable endowment gifts given to help our community will remain effective and relevant overlong periods of time. Even as local needs and giving opportunities change, a community foundation is able to adapt charitable funds to find relevance in a changing community.