CF Insights asks a very simple but important question: "What if each community foundation could know what all community foundations collectively know?" This collection features research produced and funded by community foundations, and other resources relevant to the field. Contact us at and visit us at

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Analysis of Donor Advised Funds from a Community Foundation Perspective

June 21, 2021

The Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) commissioned four studies between 2000 and 2016 to evaluate the required private foundation payout rate as well as hypothetical model portfolios and actual investment returns.In December 2020, the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy (Johnson Center) at Grand Valley State University, in collaboration with Plante Moran Financial Advisors (PMFA), updated and expanded this research by using a comprehensive database of IRS Form 990-PF (private foundation) returns, adding international investments to the model portfolios, presenting actual payout rates of all private foundations in the dataset, and showing projections of how changes to the payout rate may affect future foundation assets. In March 2021, staff from the Johnson Center turned their focus to community foundations and completed a similar analysis — the first of its kind in the CMF foundation study series.Similar to its earlier private and community foundation report counterparts, this report provides new information to the field. To study donor advised funds (DAFs), the project team leveraged the Johnson Center's comprehensive database of IRS Form 990 filings for summary statistics. The team supplemented that dataset by partnering with CMF to obtain account-level information about the more than 2,600 DAFs housed at Michigan's community foundations. That account-level detail was used to calculate individual DAF investment returns, contribution and distribution flows, and payout rates for the years 2017–2020.

Michigan Community Foundations' Youth Project (MCFYP) 20th Anniversary Report

March 1, 2013

The 1991 launch of the Michigan Community Foundations' Youth Project (MCFYP) marked a groundbreaking effort to spread youth philanthropy throughout Michigan's community foundations and all 83 counties. In honor of the 20th anniversary, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) commissioned the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University to assess the impact of MCFYP. Drawing on surveys, focus groups, archival documents, and interviews with youth participants and adult advisors and leaders, this report documents the impacts on youth, the participating community foundations, and on the Michigan communities.

Better Together: Regional Alliances and Small Community Foundation Sustainability

July 1, 2005

Examines the role regional alliances play in helping community foundations achieve financial sustainability, focusing on those with less than $20 million in assets. Includes five case studies that represent a distinct alliance model.

Conflicts of Interest at Foundations: Avoiding the Bad and Managing the Good

July 1, 2005

Conflicts of interest should either be avoided or managed in such a way that the foundation and its board and managers are protected from liability or unwelcome publicity. By answering the following five questions and by following the processes recommended in this paper, foundations can minimize legal risks; protect themselves and their board members and foundation managers against bad publicity; and most of all, ensure the integrity of their decision-making process. The five questions are: Is this transaction a conflict of interest or could it be perceived as such by others?Is it prohibited by the self-dealing rules under the Internal Revenue Code?Even if the transaction is not prohibited by the self-dealing rules, is it unfair to the foundation?i.e., does it improperly benefit another person or organization?Does the transaction create an appearance problem? How would it look on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper or to the foundation's founders?Has the foundation followed its conflict-of-interest policy and documented that fact?This paper outlines the law and the factors that should be considered when answering these questions. It also includes examples of situations that foundation regulalry encounter to offer the reader an opportunity to test his or her understanding.