Last year, it gave £7m in grants to 1,700 local groups working in the arts, education and social support.
But George Hepburn, chief executive of the foundation, says: "It would be wrong to think of us as a 'money in, money out' agency. We also want to stand up for things that are important in the town."
The foundation has funded projects such as the Berwick-upon-Tweed Community Development Trust, which turned Berwick's former job centre into a space for local groups to meet, the Northern Initiative on Women and Eating and the local Birtley Community Centre.
Roughly half of the foundation's donors are local businesses; the other half are wealthy families. Helping them identify which projects they want to fund is an important part of the foundation's work.
"We're always pleased if a donor will take on something slightly more risky - not necessarily the cuddly end of charity," says Hepburn. "We hope they take a more strategic view of philanthropy and consider those groups that are often left out.
"We don't necessarily give the biggest grants in town, but we do take a long-term interest in the groups we fund, offering advice and support."
The foundation is currently giving groups advice on how to build social capital. "We fear that over the next couple of years people may not be as generous as they have been," says Hepburn.