Benefits to Community Foundations

✓ Attracts New Donors
✓ Builds Permanent Assets
✓ Provides Additional Grants Funding
✓ Covers its Own Operating Costs
✓ Requires Minimum Staff Time

Learn More

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Our children are the inheritors of our past and the custodians of our future. Each generation wants to see the next generation succeed in making ours a better world. With teens and young people, who are sometimes perceived as being disengaged and aloof, opportunities to demonstrate their leadership qualities and abilities in the community not only dispels such preconceptions but also validates that they, in fact, have the tools to carry on the legacy bestowed to them.

The Three Pillars Initiative model illustrates this promise and provides donors with a strong reason to enthusiastically support the program, particularly new donors who are represented by the student’s parents, grandparents and relatives along with the close friends, business associates and social connections of their parents, grandparents and relatives. Through this model program, the senior cohort’s fundraising campaign adds hundreds of new donors to the community foundation’s donor list every year.



The program model specifies the establishment of a permanent endowment fund as the source of money exclusively for the program. This approach eliminates the use of unrestricted annual operating support coming out of the community foundation’s budget, unless you choose to do that. Initial donor-investors as well as additional major donors who step up after the program is underway, along with money generated each year through the student’s fundraising campaign, help to grow the fund faster, even in a down market.

The management of the endowment fund is similar to that of a donor advised fund in that the grants recommended by the students are made in consultation with community foundation and the community foundation charges the fund its customary management fee.


Like opening a new donor advised fund, starting a new permanent endowment fund for the program provides a source of new money for grants distributions to nonprofit organizations in the communities you serve. Depending on the current assets of the fund, and the spending rate you apply, the total amount of new grants funding available can create additional impact in the community. In addition, these new funds can also be used to enhance appropriate strategic plan objectives and/or leverage other programming initiatives you are pursing. By creating grant guidelines and eligibility requirements that are in alignment with your important long-term goals, you help the students understand the priorities in the community and help nonprofits make an impact.



With the establishment of a permanent endowment fund for the program, the opportunity to operate the program without money from the community foundation is a key to the ongoing success of the program. Once the fund reaches a certain level, and with continuing favorable market performance, the program can become financially self-sustainable. Depending on your spending rate, the total amount of annual grants distributed and the costs involved in operating the program each year can be covered in full. At the point when the fund exceeds the amount needed for self-sustainability, you would have the opportunity to increase total annual grant distributions or expand the program as you see fit.



One of the most distinguishing features of the program model is that the content is delivered by adult volunteer mentors along with the program coordinator. These men and women are the heart of the program. They serve as teacher, facilitator, convener, advisor and enabler. They provide the inspiration and direction that results in a strong and lasting learning experience as well as a bonding opportunity around which leadership qualities and abilities are developed. This is made possible through the use of robust, comprehensive program curriculum and guidebooks which provide mentors and program coordinators with everything they need to deliver the program.

The program coordinator, operating as either a volunteer or an independent contractor, reports to an appropriate community foundation staff person. They establish a communication and coordination plan based on their mutual expectations. In practice, community foundation staff time is reduced to the amount of time needed to generally oversee the program.