Corporate Giving Programs and Foundations

Corporate Philanthropy refers to the investments and activities a company voluntarily undertakes to responsibly manage and account for its impact on society. It includes investments of money, donations of products, in-kind services and technical assistance, employee volunteerism, and other business transactions to advance a social cause, issue, or the work of a nonprofit organization. Corporate foundations and corporate giving programs traditionally play a major role in these areas.

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For boards of directors, trustees and foundation managers, there are few areas of operation that cause more confusion and uncertainty than indemnification and the purchase of directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance. And it is no wonder. Mixing the often impenetrable statutory language of the Internal Revenue Code with the highly refined wording of insurance policies creates fertile ground for confusion. To make matters worse, the rules are not static. State laws change, Treasury regulations are revised and insurance policy language is frequently amended.

Under the rules applicable to private foundations, directors or trustees and staff members may be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the foundation's charitable activities. Such expenditures fall under the heading of administrative costs and will generally count toward the foundation's minimum distribution requirement, or payout.

The Stewardship Principles for Family Foundations encourage foundations to provide orientation and training for new board members and professional development for existing board members and staff. They also encourage planning for leadership continuity through activities that identify, educate and prepare the next generation of family members for future board service. Finally, they suggest that the foundation inform the broader family of the foundation's work and provide avenues for young family members to learn about and participate in the work of the foundation.

What do you do when a grantee—or potential grantee—asks someone on your board or staff to sit on their board? Does such a request constitute a conflict of interest? Are there times when such a situation can actually benefit one or both of the organizations involved?

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of sharing board members.

Many foundation board members wear more than one philanthropic hat. In addition to serving on the board of a grantmaker, they may also serve on the boards of grantseeking charities—or even on their staffs. Several issues may arise when board members find themselves on both sides of a grant request.

In the May/June 1998 issue of Foundation News & Commentary, Jane Nober wrote "That's the Ticket"  about using foundation funds to pay for tickets to fundraising events. Six years later, questions about tickets and other tangible benefits paid for by the foundation are still among the most common inquiries received by the Council on Foundations' legal department. We thought it would be helpful to review the basic rules for private foundations and highlight some recent questions we've answered.

Accepting and using tickets and other tangible benefits of more than minimal value raises questions for foundation managers. Here's what the general Tax Code rules say is acceptable.

This Document Retention and Destruction Policy of the Council on Foundations (the "Council") identifies the record retention responsibilities of staff, volunteers, members of the Board of Directors, and outsiders for maintaining and documenting the storage and destruction of the Council’s documents and records. You can use this as guide for your own policy.

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