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Ten Steps to Achieve Sustainable Philanthropic Goals

Community foundations find local solutions to global problems.

The world’s first community foundation was established in Cleveland in 1914. Today, there are almost 1,900 community foundations—75 percent of them created in the last 25 years. Among these are 1,033 in North America, 670 in Europe, 62 in Asia, 56 in Oceania, 31 in Africa and 11 in South America. 

Community foundations are independent charitable organizations designed to collect and combine donations, conduct research into community needs and make grants within a defined geographic area. As such, they’re “place-based,” pooling resources to meet a community’s unique needs. They are well-positioned to both facilitate and lead civil discourse, with the goal of finding shared solutions to local problems.

In May’s column, “Roadmap for Powerful Donor Impact,” I detailed the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which established a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs offer a roadmap to the world’s governments, businesses and philanthropists that engage in the continuing challenges that threaten billions of people’s lives—and the planet itself. Recently, the World Bank published an Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals.

Community foundations will play an important role in achieving the SDGs. Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, puts it well:

The 17 SDGs represent a global agenda. But they require local action to achieve them. Community foundations­—place-based, grassroots organizations addressing local challenges—have been overlooked as a means to achieving the SDGs. There is a major opportunity before us to leverage their unmatched convening power and local knowledge to improve lives on a global scale.

Earlier this year, the Council issued Local Leadership, Global Impact: Community Foundations and the Sustainable Development Goals. This report highlights global community foundations working to achieve the SDGs and sets forth 10 specific steps for community foundations everywhere.


Bruce DeBoskey, J.D., is a philanthropic strategist working across the U.S. with The DeBoskey Group to help families, businesses, foundations, and family offices design and implement thoughtful philanthropic strategies and actionable plans. He is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and workshops on philanthropy. Visit

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