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Foundation Operations: Grantmaking-> Gathering Community Input-> What Is a CAC?

What is a community advisory committee? Who creates it and why? What are its main functions?

A community advisory committee is typically comprised of community members from the foundation's service area and provides input on a variety of foundation-related activities. Creation has ranged from those that have been assembled by foundation staff to those that have been selected by the state's Attorney General. Community advisory committees are created to ensure that the foundation is in touch with the community's needs and incorporates the community's perspective in foundation operations and programming.

Community advisory committees perform a number of valuable functions for grantmaking organizations, including providing input on governance issues and helping shape the foundation's programming. With regard to governance, community advisory committees often serve two main purposes: nomination and accountability.

  • Nomination: To ensure community representation on the foundation's board of directors, committee members may function as a permanent nominating committee. While the board ultimately makes the final selection for new board members, this process assures the candidate pool is reflective of community input.
  • Accountability: Community advisory committees may also assess the foundation's interaction with the community and advise the board and staff accordingly. This structure often allows community members to provide input on foundation operations without fear of jeopardizing their position as current or potential grantees.

For example, the Missouri Foundation for Health's community advisory committee (CAC) is made up of 13 individuals selected by the Missouri Attorney General. CAC members represent different regions in the state, thereby ensuring the foundation's statewide grantmaking programs are responsive to each region. Committee members perform a variety of important functions, but are primarily responsible for nominating candidates to the foundation's board of directors. Additionally, CAC members conduct numerous public forums across the state to obtain direct input on unmet community health care needs. These forums provide an opportunity for Missourians to learn more about foundation programs, as well as to directly ask questions about the foundation and its grantmaking programs.

Foundations may also turn to community advisory committees to assist with programmatic-related functions. Members often provide input on existing initiatives and elicit ideas for future programming. Examples of specific activities include:

  • community outreach,
  • program design and development,
  • grant application review,
  • management of special program initiatives,
  • periodic or ongoing evaluation, and
  • feedback on foundation activities and procedures.

Foundations have used permanent advisory committees to gain the advantage of diverse viewpoints, to access expertise in particular fields of interest, to improve their understanding and coverage of their service areas, and to extend the reach of their governing boards and staff. At the same time, temporary groups, such as ad hoc advisory committees, working groups, or task forces, have been convened to undertake targeted or more specific assignments.

For example, the Community Memorial Foundation conducted an early needs assessment to identify priority health issues in its service area, and concerns about youth emerged as a key focus for the community. To give further definition to its health initiatives for young people, the foundation formed a council with an equal number of youth and adult members. Additional youth were recruited to oversee focus group research and to formulate guiding principles for the foundation's youth programs. A key value articulated was to utilize the energy and interest of youth as an asset for community improvement. The resulting grant program integrated the practice of active youth participation by requiring all applicants to demonstrate how young people had participated in planning the proposed program. The foundation's youth advisory council was part of the review process for responses to the Youth Initiative Request for Proposals.



Community Catalyst and Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., Community Advisory Committees: An Important Structural Provision for Conversion Foundations

Community Catalyst and Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., Conversion Foundations: Ensuring Community Participation


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