Research Roundup: Evaluating Community Foundation Investment Returns & Payout Rates

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Research Roundup is a regular ACP feature created to give you an insight into the work academics are undertaking around community philanthropy. Dr. Alexandra Williamson, ACP individual member and academic at the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) at Queensland University of Technology, takes a look at a research paper or study addressing the issues Australia’s network of Community Foundations care about.


What are we reading this month?

An Evaluation of Community Foundation Investment Returns & Payout Rates

Who wrote it?

Jeff Williams, Casey Veach and Dr Brittany Kienker

What are their day jobs?

Jeff Williams is the Director, Community Data and Research Lab the the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy;
Casey Veach is a Manager at Plante Moran Financial Advisors; Dr Brittany Kienker is Knowledge Insights Expert in Residence at the Council of Michigan Foundations.

Who published it?

The Council of Michigan Foundations, U.S.

Where’s the research based?

In the U.S., utilizing data from the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 of community foundations from 2014-2018. The sample was community foundations that file electronic returns, which represent 89% (or 754) of the 847 community foundations in the U.S.

What’s it about?

How do community foundation investment returns and payout rates compare to their private foundation peers in the U.S.?

Why should I read it?

The report is in three sections. Part 1 looks at the investment returns earned by community foundations in the past. Part 2 looks at the payouts (annual distributions, or grantmaking) comparing community foundations in Michigan with those in the US nationally. Note that unlike private foundations in the US, community foundations in the US do not have a mandated minimum distribution percentage. Part 3 compares community foundations with private foundations. The Council on Michigan Foundations has published multiple prior reports on private foundations’ investment returns and grantmaking.

Lastly, the Conclusions page (p.11) of the report neatly summarises the key findings.

Okay, so where’s the link?

You can download a copy of the full report here.

Full citation:

Williams, J., Veach, C. and Kienker, B. (2021). An evaluation of community foundation investment returns & payout rates. Council of Michigan Foundations.

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