CF Insights Survey Results

Shared knowledge for community foundations


Staff and financial resources are important to monitor for smaller foundations who are looking to grow, and for larger foundations who are looking for the flexibility to diversify their offerings.

Revenue mix

Administrative fees are the main source of community foundation operating revenues field-wide. Larger community foundations are more likely to supplement fees with fee for service revenues, while smaller community foundations tend to do more direct fundraising to support operations. Community foundations often seek to generate surplus revenues that could be reinvested into community leadership initiatives.

Averages were used to total 100%. (n=157)

 $0-$25M $25-$50M $50-$100M $100-$250M $250-$500M $500M+ All
% Administrative fees 63% 63% 68% 78% 82% 78% 72%
% Fees for service 4% 1% 1% 0% 1% 3% 2%
% Fundraising: operations 13% 11% 13% 5% 7% 4% 8%
% Fundraising: programmatic 11% 4% 5% 6% 1% 5% 5%
% Distribution from endowment/reserve 5% 12% 10% 8% 8% 4% 8%
% Other revenue 4% 9% 3% 3% 1% 6% 5%

Operational expenses

Among the 139 community foundations who reported their total operating expenses for 2020 and 2021, the median increase in total expenses was seven percent.

Averages were used to total 100%. (n=184)

 $0-$25M $25-$50M $50-$100M $100-$250M $250-$500M $500M+ All
Personnel expenses 60% 56% 61% 65% 70% 66% 64%
Non-personnel expenses 40% 44% 39% 35% 30% 34% 36%

Surplus vs. subsidy

Two-thirds of all annual survey participants reported that they ended FY2021 having generated surplus revenue, which is often reinvested back into a given foundation's community leadership efforts. For the other third and others who end the year with operating deficits, they are typically covered by unrestricted funds, limiting their flexibility to invest in foundation-operated initiatives and leadership.

Calculated as revenues divided by expenses: Significant surplus >125%; Modest surplus = 105%-124%; Breakeven = 95%-104%; Modest subsidy = 75%-94%; Significant subsidy <75% (n=167)

Significant subsidy Modest subsidy Breakeven Modest surplus Significant surplus
22% 11% 12% 35% 20%

Expense to asset ratio

Expense to asset ratios among annual survey participants remain consistent with 2020 levels, with an only slight decrease in the overall median (from 1.1% in 2020). As is generally the case, larger community foundations achieve an economy of scale that results in typically lower ratios than for smaller community foundations, though operating model differences at individual community foundations will have an impact on this metric. (n=181)

Funds per full-time equivalent

Larger community foundations tend to maintain relatively complex operating models, requiring a higher number of specialized staff who will be less likely to manage donor funds. (n=167)

What's the idea behind the survey?

CF Insights responds to a hunger for shared knowledge among community foundations. Learn more about how this survey helps us do that.

About the survey


Connect with Council Staff

David Rosado

Senior Advisor, Community Philanthropy