THINGS MAY BE looking up - a year or two from now - for such diverse activities and institutions as dance groups, schools for remedial reading and environmental-research groups in this area, now that the Community Foundation of Greater Washington is finally beginning to get itself ready to open up shop. The foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation that was actually created several years ago by local businessmen and foundation executives to support educational, artistic, environmental, health and social-service organizations. Like the more than 200 other community foundations across the country, the Community Foundation is supposed to raise funds froth individuals, corporations and other foundations. But the trouble has been that the foundation existed mostly on paper; only in the last year has it gotten any money or even much attention. And even so, a lot more money will have to be raised before the foundation can get down to thinking seriously about how to parcel it out, and to whom.

Why, you may ask, do we need another foundation in the area? Well, one answer is that the operations of the Community Foundation, unlike those of other foundations in town, would be strictly limited to the metropolitan area of Washington; outsiders need not apply. Moreover, its interests are broader than those of many other foundations that focus their efforts on, say, just the arts or health care or education. The Community Foundation is designed to operate in all these fields, and more. Finally, the foundation's management emphasizes a distinction between its approach and that of other philanthropic organizations and charities, such as the United Way, which provide money to pay the operating expenses of worthy non-profit organizations. Rather than offering this sort of general budgetary support, the Community Foundation intends to focus more narrowly on specific programs and projects.

The only question is, when? And on that score, about all that can be said is that the original management has been shaken up and that a new director and a more aaggressive board are off to a promising start. They are working closely with a number of national corporations that have Washington offices and that are interested in contributing to local projects, but need the local expertise that the foundation can supply.

The foundation has found an important supporter in Vice President Mondale, whose interest stems from his involvement with the work of the White House Task Force on the District of Columbia. Mr. Mondale has conveyed his interest in the matter to the Ford Foundation. As a result, the Food Foundation will be meeting soon with other national philanthropic institutions to consider how they might help. The Community Foundation, it should be emphasized, is still a year or perhaps 18 months away from being ready for business - if all goes according to plan. But, for the first time, it is at least showing some encouraging signs of life.