The Geography and Disparities of Community Philanthropy: A Community Assessment Model of Needs, Resources, and Ecological Environment

  • Viviana Chiu-Sik WuEmail author
Research Papers


Community foundations exemplify a growing form of place-based philanthropic efforts for addressing public problems. However, why do such efforts occur in some places, but not in others? Using an original population dataset of community foundations that combines community characteristics with service area data across 3130 US counties, the empirical analyses of hurdle negative binomial models reveal distinct patterns in explaining their locational distribution and philanthropic activities. Community foundations tend to emerge or flourish in urban communities which are White-dominant, ethnically homogeneous, and less religious but have more social and human capital. Crossing the zero hurdle, their philanthropic activities tend to bloom in ethnically diverse and unequal communities but plummet in highly educated communities with more high-income earners, whereas rural and vulnerable communities with high proportions of residents who are young, old, unemployed, and disabled exemplify potential service gaps of community foundations associated with their rarity and/or fewer philanthropic activities. This study presents a community assessment model and empirical evidence of what might promote and inhibit the occurrence of community philanthropic efforts.


Place disparity Community foundations Service area Community assessment Nonprofit density 



I am grateful to the two anonymous reviewers and scholars working in the field of community philanthropy, whom I have benefited substantially from their insightful work and comments. Much appreciation also goes to Dr. Ioana Marinescu, Dr. Chao Guo and Dr. Weiai (Wayne) Xu, and the panel participants at the 2018 ARNOVA-Asia conference and 2018 Academy of Management Conference, for providing valuable feedback to this research. Last but not least, I would like to thank important collaborators of this research project, including Dr. Laurie Paarlberg, Colton Strawser, Jin Ai, and Yue Ming, for partaking in a collaborative endeavor to collect service area data of community foundations.


No funding has been received for conducting this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11266_2019_180_MOESM1_ESM.docx (232 kb)
Supplementary file1 (DOCX 232 kb)


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© International Society for Third-Sector Research 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social Policy and PracticeUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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