Every town has a heart and foundation that reflects what residents love about their community and why they choose to live there.

What is Community Heart & Foundation?

Community Heart & Foundation is a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town in identifying what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it.

Developed and field-tested over a decade in partnership with over 100 small cities and towns across America, Community Heart & Foundation is a proven process for engaging a community in shaping its future.

How it Works

Community Heart & Foundation is an ongoing practice that provides municipal officials with a clear understanding of what matters most to their constituents–all the residents–and forges a partnership that builds on the first thing everyone has in common: they all live here. It’s not a report that sits on a shelf; it’s a way of coming together to make your town a better place to live in and visit.

Community Heart & Foundation begins with a four-phase, step-by-step process that brings residents together to identify and honor the unique character of their town and the emotional connection of the people who live there.

“The Community Heart & Foundation model has been the perfect fit for my organization as we work to strengthen rural Iowa communities. I’ve learned so much about community engagement, helping emerging leaders, and developing authentic relationships with people in our small towns.”

— Jason Neises, Certified Coach Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque

Phase 1: Imagine

Phase 1: Connect

Heart & Foundation teams are formed to build awareness, interest, and commitment in all segments of the community.

Stories are gathered from residents, leading to the development of Heart &  Foundation Statements that identify what matters most and reflect what they love about their towns.

Phase 3: Plan

Phase 4: Act

Residents develop action plans to guide future town planning based on their Heart &  Foundation Statements

Heart & Foundation Statements are officially adopted by town and city councils, incorporated into comprehensive and other plans, and are used to guide future policies and decisions.

The real work of Community Heart & Foundation gets underway upon completion of the 4 phases. That’s when Heart & Foundation teams put into action the plans they developed based on their Heart & Foundation Statements.

Featured Town Profile

Kershaw, South Carolina

With partnership from the Arras Foundation in Lancaster, South Carolina, Kershaw initiated Heart & Foundation to build local communication networks, involve youth, seniors, and community in revitalizing community life, and to create a new culture of collaboration and connection to act upon shared community goals. Town leaders envisioned increased local participation in municipal life so more voices could be heard. Business owners relished the chance to build stronger relationships within the community, and nonprofit partners dreamed of rebuilding the trust and pride needed to expand and strengthen educational and social services

Kershaw Heart & Foundation, South Carolina

“The overall take away here is that we discovered the joy of collaboration. Heart & Foundation served as a shared agenda and centerpiece to keep everyone together and moving in the same direction.”

— Kershaw Heart & Foundation Team Member

Town Action

The Town has a renewed focus on solving zoning challenges, engaging the community, and working closely with the Heart & Foundation Stewardship Team on the Collaborative Community Action Plan.

Increased Communication

Relationships with residents and town officials have been established and strengthened. Heart & Foundation reports at Town meetings

Community Heart & Foundation Towns

From Downeast Maine to the Heartlands to the Pacific Northwest, towns and residents are making change in their communities. Click on the map to see where it’s happening and hear their stories. Let us give you a guided tour through the transformation with Community Heart & Foundation.