Community foundations-the charity vehicle of choice for many philanthropic investors-are having a tough time dealing with competition and an increasingly complex investment environment, according to a recent poll.
   The poll, sponsored by SEI, found that community foundations view their biggest challenges to be competition for donations (46%), low overall brand awareness (46%), overworked staffs (42%) and rising health-care and insurance costs (35%).
   Respondents also said investment committees are spending an increasing percentage of their time researching complex investment products and making manager selection and asset allocation decisions.
   "This poll supports a trend where many community foundations are reevaluating the traditional roles of their internal staffs and investment committees, as well as their external services providers," says Carolyn McLaurin, vice president and managing director of SEI's nonprofit group. SEI is a provider of outsourced asset management, investment processing and investment operations solutions.

   Illustrating the operational crunch community foundations are facing, 69% of foundations surveyed said their internal staffs are spending more time on marketing and servicing current donors, and 30% said a lack of time and resources is impacting their ability to increase returns.
   Many are dealing with the problem through third parties. Slightly more than half of respondents said they use an investment consultant, and 42% said they use a third party to select asset managers.
   "In a much more difficult environment for nonprofits, many community foundations are moving towards new approaches that reallocate responsibilities and enable each role to maximize its core competency," McLaurin says.