Community Foundation Development Programme

What are community foundations? Community foundations are placed-based, grassroots level organisations that are multi-issued with the transactional capacity to hold assets and make grants. Their ability to build trust at the community level, build local leadership and capacity to solve local challenges, make them indispensable to the growth and development of their geographically defined, local communities. They have capacity to raise funds, attract donor resources as well as the ability to harness non-financial, volunteer giving. They are key sources of intelligence regarding contextual developments within communities. No one community foundation is the same as they are contextually shaped, some with the benefit of endowments but most other, certainly in the African context, with the challenge of needing to raise funds in order to make targeted grants. The most critical comparative advantage of a community foundation is its power to convene, underpinned by the trust of the communities it serves

The illustration below summarises the characteristics of the community foundation

The value proposition of the community foundation

The community foundation stands at the intersection between vertical and horizontal giving. In effect, at the interface between informal community giving, and vertical institutionalised giving. The primary task of the community foundation is to help unlock local community assets (both financial and non-financial), so that they are able to use these assets to leverage investment by vertical sources, for community-led and managed development. This is illustrated below:

The vision and mission of the Community Foundation Development Programme

Vision – Communities across Africa have agency, voice and capacity to lead and manage their own development and destinies by unlocking local resources and assets to leverage multi-sectorial and multinational resources towards achieving their sustainable development goals.

Mission: Build a network of competent infrastructure organisations, able to deepen the field of community philanthropy and establish, nurture, support and connect a movement of community foundations in each of the SADC countries.

The vision is given effect through strategy that is illustrated below:

What we are striving towards:

  • A network of well-resourced and connected infrastructure organisations (CFSOs) that leverage their resources to build and deepen the field of community philanthropy and community foundations.
  • Functional community foundations in five to seven countries in Southern Africa connected via national peer to peer networks.
  • Communities across the region that recover from COVID-19, lead their own development and leverage local resources and assets through their community foundations to achieve sustainable development goals.
  • Evidence-informed knowledge and intelligence on community foundations and community philanthropy in the region founded on contextual and linguistically relevant (African) notions of philanthropy – on both horizontal and vertical giving. A key emphasis will be on participatory action research.
  • Regional peer to peer network that holds together infrastructure organisations, community foundations and other philanthropy stakeholders regarding learning, peer support and international exposure. This platform may in time evolve into a membership-based network.
  • An expanded network of funders who invest in building infrastructure and community foundations, and where alternative and innovative forms of revenue generation are explored.
  • Enabling environments at country level that facilitate and encourage community philanthropy and recognition of community foundations as the institutional vehicles of choice.
  • Critical reflections, praxis and stories about community philanthropy, community foundations, SDGs and other written and published by Africans and African scholars for Africa and the world

Community foundations and the roles they play in helping to realise the SDGs


The strategy is to use the SDGs as the rallying call to multi-sectoral action at country and local levels, and to encourage the CFs and CFSOs, along with their social capital, to engage and adopt the SDGs as a common action platform. The emphasis is on educating community foundations on the SDGs, creating an inclusive environment for community foundations in which to participate, making them key collaborators in pursuit of the goals.  

The compelling argument is that without community participation at the grassroots levels, and local initiatives, the SDGs and related endeavours to solve local to global challenges will not be possible to fully achieve.  

The two important imperatives of the project are the following

  • To get CFs and CFSOs to realise that they are already impacting the SDGs in their own way at a grassroots level. To achieve this, it will be important to profile their work (work currently being done and delivered), to demonstrate how and where they plug into the relevant SDGs
  • To get CFs and CFSOs to fully understand the SDGs, their indicators, country dashboards, policy initiatives and other so that they locate their work in these contexts

The primary intent in line with the imperatives, is to demonstrate that CFs and CFSOs are already contributing to the SDGs, and to encourage them to more actively use the SDGs as part of their programming, monitoring and reporting.

The pilot project

The project was undertaken from August 2022 to February 2023. It forms part of a broader programme implemented by SGS Consulting and supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to use the SDGs as the rallying call to multi-sectoral action at country and local levels. These broader efforts encourage CFs and CFSOs, along with their social capital, to engage and adopt the SDGs as a common action platform. It reinforces multi-sectoral collaboration in working to realize the SDGs (depending on comparative advantages), and offers a common reporting and accountability framework using the indicator statements and targets. This will hopefully help to reinforce multi-sector collaboration at country level in reporting progress against relevant indicators and targets, and where needed, add additional indicators and targets that resonate more with civil society priorities. More importantly though, that civil society agency and voice are central to collective efforts at realising the SDGs.

The objective of the study was to support CFs and CFSOs to be able to profile their current work in order to understand and reflect how they contribute and align to select SDGs.

Study Partners

The following six CFs/CFSOs participated in this study:

  • Tanzania Community Foundation Network (TCFN)
  • Initiative for Community Advancement (ICA, South Africa)
  • Zambia Governance Foundation (ZGF)
  • World Connect Malawi (WCM)
  • The Community Foundation for the Western Region of Zimbabwe (CFWRZ)
  • Uluntu Community Foundation (UCF, Zimbabwe)

Each study partner has produced a publication, supported by a summary report of the project and its outcomes

See Reports here

This work is set to continue in 2023 / 2024 by further ​​training and capacity building on SDGs, building stronger monitoring and evaluation systems within CFs, forging closer collaborations between government and community foundations, reaching out to SDG task teams at country and regional levels, exploring fund-raising opportunities, and continuing research and documentation.

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