Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answers to your questions

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What is a community foundation?

A community foundation is a collection of grant-making funds established by charity-minded individuals, families and groups who wish to set aside money to provide long-term support to a defined community.


Instead of individually paying to set up their own private foundations and hiring staff to screen grant requests, administer donations, monitor investment results, and handle all the other “back office” work, donors share expenses by setting up funds within the community foundation. That means most of their charitable dollars can go to their chosen causes.

How does a community foundation work?

A donor creates a fund by making a gift to the community foundation. Most gifts are in the form of cash, appreciated stock, charitable remainder trusts or bequests—all offering tax advantages. The donor names the fund and defines its purpose. Assets in the fund are pooled with other funds the foundation administers and invested. Every year, some of the return on the donor’s fund is used to award grants in accordance with the fund’s purpose. The rest of the money earned is retained to keep the fund growing.

What is the purpose of The Catholic Community Foundation?

The Foundation’s ultimate purpose is to sustain and spread Catholic values by increasing the amount and effectiveness of philanthropy flowing to causes that support the mission of the church in Southeastern Wisconsin.

The Foundation serves two main groups:

  • Individuals, families and other donors who want to provide long-term support to organizations and causes that perpetuate Catholic values.
  • Agencies seeking the benefit of professional management for their endowments and long-term investments. These agencies include Catholic parishes and other Catholic organizations as well as non-profit organizations that advance the mission of the church.
How does The Catholic Community Foundation help individual donors?

The Foundation helps you by:

  1. Making it easy for you and your family to provide tax-advantaged, long-term support to charitable causes consistent with your values.
  2. Protecting and growing contributed assets through socially responsible, sophisticated, professionally monitored investment management.
  3. Evaluating grant requests to ensure your charitable contributions support organizations that meet important community needs.
  4. Helping you be as involved as you desire in directing funds to organizations in and outside Southeastern Wisconsin.
  5. Monitoring performance of organizations that request funding, establishing clear expectations and tracking results.
Can the archbishop or archdiocese direct how Foundation monies are used? How is use of Foundation funds controlled?

Only funds established with the express wish that they be expended at the archbishop’s or archdiocese’s discretion may be used in this manner. Both canon and civil law require all funds placed with the Foundation to be administered and distributed in accordance with the wishes of the donor. The Foundation board has final grant-making approval.

How does the Foundation help non-profits?

The Foundation helps increase charitable giving, particularly to Catholic non-profits, by making giving easy and effective and pointing out the benefits of charitable funds, charitable remainder trusts and other giving mechanisms to new philanthropists.

What kind of causes does the Foundation support? Does it fund non-Catholic activities?

Most grants support causes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, though donors can direct some of their annual contributions to recipients outside this area. And most recipients are affiliated with the Catholic church, although, again, donors can direct some of their contributions to other charitable causes. The Foundation approves grants to non-Catholic organizations whose work supports the church’s mission. The most important thing to remember is that grants always meet the donor’s specifications. With a wide range of donor interests, we award grants to a wide range of organizations.

Who decides which organizations receive grants?

That depends on the type of fund you choose.

  • Donor-advised funds give you or your representative the opportunity to recommend annual grant recipients.
  • Designated funds allow you to name one or more specific organizations you want to support.
  • Field of interest funds have you specify the types of organizations or causes you want to support. The Foundation then identifies specific recipients.
  • Unrestricted funds leave grant-making to the Foundation, accommodating changing community needs.
How do organizations qualify for grants?

Organizations seeking grants submit letters of intent and then, if invited, full grant request proposals with supporting documentation (non-profit status, budgets, board list, etc.). Foundation staff review grant requests and make site visits as appropriate. A committee established by the Foundation’s board of directors then reviews the requests and makes approval recommendations to the board. See getting started for grant-seekers.

How are the Foundation's funds invested?

The Foundation invests the funds prudently, seeking a return that exceeds inflation by at least five percent. The Foundation’s Investment Committee works with professional advisors to develop investment goals and guidelines that define risk parameters and socially responsible investment selection criteria. Investment manager performance is reviewed regularly and compared to benchmarks selected by the board’s Investment Committee. All funds received from donors, parishes and agencies are pooled for investment purposes, but each donor/parish/agency fund is separately accounted for and reported on. See more at how we invest.

Who manages the Foundation's investments?

Professional investment managers make buy/sell decisions in accordance with Foundation guidelines. We employ different managers for each asset class. The Foundation board’s Investment Committee follows a disciplined evaluation process and enlists the advice of an independent investment consultant to select managers who have successful track records in their specific areas or asset classes. Each manager’s performance is monitored against a predetermined benchmark. Securities owned by the Foundation are held in custody by an independent third-party bank or trust company. See more at how we invest.

What investment strategy does the Foundation follow?

Our investment strategy has a conservative bias, with an emphasis on limiting risk through diversification of assets and the use of several investment managers. The Foundation takes very seriously its stewardship responsibilities to invest prudently yet achieve a reasonable rate of return to achieve donors’ philanthropic goals. See more at how we invest.

Is the Foundation a civil or canonical corporation?

The Foundation is recognized in both civil and canon law. Under civil law, it has corporate status as a charitable foundation. Canonically, it is what is known as a public juridic person, the canon law parallel to a civil corporation.

Call Mary Ellen Markowski to ask about starting a fund: