Community foundations in the United States
The concept of a community foundation began in Cleveland in 1914 as a civic organization modeled on John D. Rockefeller’s new private foundation. Other towns and cities followed suit, and many new community foundations were created in the Northeast and Midwest. By 1960, more than six community foundations a year were being formed, and in 1964, an umbrella organization for foundations, the Council on Foundations, was created. The Council on Foundations developed national standards of accountability and excellence for community foundations. In the tax reform act of 1969, Congress gave community foundations the preferred status of public charities, allowing them tax advantages over private foundations. Since then, community foundations have played increasingly important roles in the well-being and vibrancy of communities. The first community foundations in Montana began to take form in the early 1980s.
During the 1990s, Park Electric Cooperative established the Park County Community Foundation Fund at the Montana Community Foundation to benefit the communities in its service area of Park and Sweet Grass counties. The Co-op made a donation of $5,000 with the hope that its example would inspire others to contribute to the permanent assets of the fund. Resources were not available to promote this philanthropic opportunity, and no additional donations to the fund were received.
Why develop a county-wide community foundation in Park County?
Around 2000, a Park County rancher died and left his entire estate, worth more than $5 million, to Montana State University. Many have speculated that if Park County had had a successfully operating county-wide community foundation, at least a portion of that estate might have remained in the county to meet local needs. The Park County Community Foundation can:
- Provide guidance on how best to structure giving to meet your personal philanthropic goals and objectives.
- Help donors achieve their philanthropic goals.
- Attract new funding sources to meet community needs.
- Help local nonprofits establish more stable income sources.
- Provide due diligence for part-time residents who may not be familiar with local needs and the nonprofits that address those needs.
- Complement grantmaking from existing philanthropic entities in Park County, and meet needs that fall outside their guidelines.
- Build and provide a vehicle for local, permanently endowed funds.
- Promote a new spirit of empowerment, collaboration and self-reliance in Park County.
After the initial organizing in 2004-2005, bylaws for the Park County Community Foundation were adopted on August 8, 2006, and Articles of Incorporation were adopted on August 17, 2006. The Foundation was approved as a public benefit corporation and filed by the Montana secretary of state on August 18, 2006. On January 10, 2007, the corporation was determined to be exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code as a nonprofit charity serving Park County, MT.