About This Project

Going All In is the result of CFLeads’ Igniting the Future of Community Foundations research project, launched in 2019. Reflections on the community foundation field (summarized in A New Era for Community Foundations) highlighted the need for a refreshed perspective of the sector. Going All In builds on the significant progress community foundations have made in the previous decade and responds to the growing desire for a common path forward to achieve better outcomes for all.

This progress is in part a response to the challenge that the Monitor Institute issued to the field in 2005 when it published On The Brink of New Promise: The Future of U.S. Community Foundations with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Ford Foundation. On the Brink urged the field to make three critical shifts to stay relevant: from institution to the community; from financial assets to long-term leadership; and from competitive independence to coordinated impact. 

CFLeads took up the challenge, creating a national network of community foundations eager to increase their impact and advance their community leadership practice. Together, we created a Framework for Community Leadership, identified five core competencies, and developed powerful peer learning opportunities to advance this practice.

Since we first embarked on our research last fall, the world has dramatically changed. The focus of community foundations’ work has shifted with the emergence of COVID-19 and the need to respond rapidly to a growing public health crisis and economic devastation. At the same time, community foundations across the country have spoken out about the need to remedy the racial injustices that have sparked nationwide protests.

That is why we’ve chosen to share the results of our research in the form of a web portal, one that we can continue to build on as community foundations necessarily adjust, refine, and adapt their plans to accommodate new realities.

Going All In on Community Leadership

Our research found that an astonishing 98% of community foundation leaders plan to deepen or expand their community leadership over the next few years. Notably, this is not limited to those community foundations with greater assets; the commitment to community leadership is sector-wide.

Our research also shows that community leadership is not a side project for community foundations. Nearly all of our survey respondents (91%) sustain their community leadership work using their operating budget, and 70% maintain two or more sources of funding to support their work. Some have even launched funds to support their community leadership efforts. For example, The Boston Foundation’s Civic Leadership Fund, launched in 2002, now raises more than $3M annually, creating a new flow of flexible capital that has been critical to enabling the Foundation’s civic engagement work. Several other community foundations have adopted this approach, including Baltimore, Seattle and Rhode Island.

We recognize that each community foundation is in a different stage of their community leadership journey and may be further along in one action area than another. We also recognize that community leadership is often collaborative, and that community foundations work closely with donors, residents, neighborhood leaders, businesses, government agencies, and other nonprofits to create lasting change in their communities.

Areas of Momentum

From our research, we identified three areas of momentum in particular that show great promise and potential for the field. These areas were illuminated by our survey findings and interviews and have been reinforced by the historic events that have taken place since this project began. Insisting on racial equity, amplifying community voice and influencing public policy and systems are all critical actions community foundations must take to improve their practice and create better outcomes for all.

We have captured this momentum here, on our Going All In portal. This portal highlights the current direction of the field and lifts up emerging themes and promising illustrations to help inform and inspire community foundations during this time of national tumult and reexamination and beyond. This web portal will continue to evolve as we add additional resources and learning opportunities for community foundations.


To highlight community foundations’ unique value and ability to provide community leadership, our research intentionally focused on the non-grantmaking roles of community foundations. It was guided by an advisory committee made up of 15 community foundation CEOs (listed below) who met six times to guide its progress.

This project was informed by a survey, conducted by Candid in late 2019, which provided insights from 152 community foundation leaders, plus dozens of interviews conducted by CFLeads. The ideas and input collected from the survey were incorporated into subsequent interviews, and further refined through an iterative process that took into account changing circumstances and perspectives.

The survey sample was well distributed across several cohorts by asset size, staff size and geography, indicating that the survey findings are reasonably representative of the field as a whole. Each of the standard community foundation asset size cohorts ($0-25M, $25-50M, $50-100M, $100M-$250M, $250-500M, $500M+) made up at least 12% of the survey respondents. The largest cohort in the survey sample, 29%, represents the largest number of community foundations in the field: those managing less than $25M in assets.

Webinar: Project Findings

Frequently Asked Questions

Please visit our FAQ for questions and answers about this project, including who to contact for more information.

Printable Summary

We have designed a printable summary of the Going All In portal that community foundations can share with their staff and board. This document provides an overview of the project and the three areas of momentum, highlighting examples from our Advisory Committee members.

Thank Yous

Igniting the Future of Community Foundations Advisory Committee

Special thanks to CFLeads Board Chair and Advisory Committee Chair Ellen Gilligan for her guidance and leadership of this project.

  • Ivye L. Allen, Foundation for the Mid South
  • Fred Blackwell, San Francisco Foundation
  • Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
  • Helene D. Gayle, The Chicago Community Trust
  • Ellen M. Gilligan, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Advisory Committee Chair
  • Paul S. Grogan, The Boston Foundation
  • Douglas F. Kridler, The Columbus Foundation          
  • Tony Mestres, Seattle Foundation
  • Shelly O’Quinn, Innovia Foundation
  • Richard Ober, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation
  • Isaiah M. Oliver, Community Foundation of Greater Flint
  • Pedro A. Ramos, The Philadelphia Foundation
  • Randy Royster, Albuquerque Community Foundation
  • Ashley Swearengin, Central Valley Community Foundation
  • Steven G. Seleznow, Arizona Community Foundation

CFLeads Team

  • Deborah Ellwood, President & CEO, for providing oversight and direction of the project.
  • James D. Rooney, Project Director (Consultant), for collaborating on project strategy, direction, communications, research, and collateral development. 
  • Melody MacLean, Director of Communications, for leading the design and development of the Going All In web portal and content.
  • Caroline Merenda, Senior Director of Administration, for coordinating meetings, interviews, and project deliverables.

Thank you to the rest of the staff team—Len Bartel, Leonard Brock, Angela Brown and Alaina Ennamorati—for contributing their unique expertise and perspectives to the project. Thank you to Gigi Wirtz for proofreading and fact-checking and to Claire Connacher for identifying relevant research.

Lastly, thank you to the CFLeads board for their ongoing support and guidance of this project and to our supporters, including our community foundation investors and national funders, whose unrestricted support made this project possible. If you are interested in investing in community foundations’ capacity for greater community leadership, visit Support Our Work.