How to engage community foundations in the SDGs

A Sustainable Development Goal lapel pin. Photo by: Universitetet i Bergen / CC BY-NC-SA

San Francisco — Last week, the first ever North American Community Foundation Summit brought leaders of community foundations together in Mexico City. The theme of the meeting was “leave no one behind,” and the focus was on how community foundations can support progress toward the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

What role can community foundations play in achieving the SDGs?

Last week, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation announced it now has $13.5 billion in assets. The news comes at a moment of growing recognition that community foundations are essential partners in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

On the occasion of the summit, the Council on Foundations released a report arguing that these goals cannot be reached without the involvement of community foundations. It builds on a previous report looking at the trend toward international grantmaking by United States community foundations, which the council defines as “grantmaking public charities that are dedicated to improving the lives of people in a defined local geographic area. They bring together the financial resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support effective nonprofits in their communities.”

Devex spoke with Natalie Ross, vice president of the Council on Foundations and author of the report, to understand how leaders of NGOs can engage with these community foundations as they begin to use the SDGs as a framework for action. Ross described them as critical partners in bringing the SDGs to life through a place-based strategy.

“If you’re an INGO, and you’re asking yourself, ‘How do I localize?,’ have you asked yourself: ‘Is there a community foundation here?’ They are trying to build up on an endowed set of resources to support civil society long after aid is gone,” she told Devex.

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About the author

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.