Below are answers to some frequently asked questions. For more specific information, please contact your local community foundation.

Community foundations use a lexicon of terms to describe the good and important work they do to support their communities. Reviewing these Terms to Know is a great place to start.

The Council on Foundations defines the general term “foundation” as an entity that supports charitable activities by making grants to unrelated organizations or institutions or to individuals for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other charitable purposes.

While a private foundation is generally funded by a single or a small number of sources (such as an individual, family, or corporation), a community foundation is funded by the community. Many, many people donate to a single community foundation, and a community foundation, as the name suggests, is dedicated to serving the causes in a particular community – whether that is a city/town, county, or region.

This means community foundations can offer:

  • Personalized service making giving easy, flexible and effective, accepting a wide variety of gifts and providing donors the greatest flexibility. You can contribute cash, stocks, property, and bequests. You may establish an Unrestricted, Field of Interest, Designated or Donor Advised Fund in your name or in the name of a loved one. Your gift will gain maximum tax advantage.
  • Local expertise from staff who have an in-depth understanding of the issues, opportunities and resources that shape your community. They monitor all areas of community need — including human services, education, the environment, healthcare, the arts and economic development. They can help you learn more about local agencies and programs that make a difference in areas you care about most.
  • Community leadership to bring people and organizations together, convening diverse voices to address local issues and opportunities.

Community foundations can help your gifts make the greatest impact in your community.  Contact your local community foundation for more information.


There are a wide variety of grant programs offered by community foundations throughout Iowa. For specific information and application guidelines, please contact your local community foundation.

“Transfer of wealth” is a term to describe money that is passed down from generation to generation. In Iowa, a study was done by the Community Vitality Center (Iowa’s Transfer Of Wealth Study) and found that from 2000 – 2049, an estimated $531 billion is expected to pass through probate estates from one generation to the next in Iowa.

Nationally, by the year 2061 it is estimated that $59 trillion will be passed down from Boomers to their beneficiaries. In many Iowa counties, the wealth transfer will crest much sooner. Much of this wealth is currently invested in family homes and farms, retirement accounts and other appreciated assets – some of which may be heavily taxed if given to heirs.

If only 5% of this wealth was earmarked for charitable endowments, those funds would generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year for local community projects and priorities across the state – forever. Iowa community foundations have established endowments focused on improving quality of life in each county, including the one you call home. If you would like to learn more about how you can support growing your county’s endowment fund, or how you can start your own fund, we encourage you to have a conversation with your local community foundation.

Iowa community foundations are active organizations and rely on volunteers who are passionate about their communities to serve on their boards of directors, affiliate advisory committees and grant review committees. There are many ways you can get involved!  To learn more, please contact your local community foundation or the Iowa Council of Foundations.