Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA)


This research project-a qualitative study with data collected primarily through interviews-was conducted to determine whether there are notable characteristics common to community foundations serving rural regions, and whether these characteristics differ from those of other community foundations in general. The framework developed for this research project was adapted from three empirical studies, each emphasizing specific characteristics related to organizational development and community foundations. The first study (Agard, 1992) examined the administrative, social, strategic, and technical systems of community foundations with regard to growth and change over time at different ages and asset sizes. The second study (Mayer, 1994) addressed the characteristics necessary for a community foundation to facilitate and build community capacity within its service area. The third study (Struckhoff, 1991) focused on the threshold endowment size (or "take-off point'') needed for a community foundation to attain sustainable growth capacity. Data gathered for the present study demonstrates that, as is generally true of most community foundations, the characteristics of community foundations serving rural regions changed as they grew older and larger. The study also found that among rural-serving community foundations, the asset level was more significant than organizational age as a factor associated with growth. Furthermore, it was evident from this research that there are distinguishing characteristics particular to community foundations serving rural regions. A significant finding was that the majority of executive directors regarded their community foundations as service organizations first and foundations second. These directors varied widely in their estimates of the endowment "take-off' point enabling a community foundation to achieve sustained growth. These varied estimates seemed to be related to the current age and asset size of the directors' respective organization. Where local economies are agriculturally based, the community foundations' fund-raising mindset seems to differ from that of other community foundations in general. Not all community foundations serving rural regions studied have grown in similar patterns. Many rural-serving community foundations are assisting large service territories incorporating enormous geographical areas. The effects of technology are beginning to play a very large role in these community foundations. Still in question is a definitive answer to whether a community foundation serving a rural region can provide more services per endowment dollar than other community foundations in general.