Eligibility & FAQs

FULL MEMBERS are foundations, corporations or philanthropic entities that primarily provide charitable support to two or more unrelated, external organizations or individuals on an annual basis and that support the public good.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS are philanthropic support entities, organizations, or consultants that serve foundations, corporations, or philanthropic entities.

Frequently Asked Questions


General Eligibility Requirements 

FULL MEMBERS:

Q: What are the general requirements to join the Council as a voting member?
A: Voting members of the Council on Foundations are foundations, corporations, or philanthropic entities that primarily provide charitable support to two or more unrelated external organizations or individuals on an annual basis and that support the public good. The member’s governance structure must be independent of government control but may be created by tribal law. The purpose of joining the Council is to advance philanthropy through learning and connecting with others involved in philanthropic activity.

Q: We are a grantmaker but do not meet the Council’s criteria for voting membership. Can we join the Council as an associate member?
A: Unfortunately, no. If you are a grantmaker, you must meet the Council’s voting membership criteria. Associate membership is reserved for philanthropic support entities, organizations, or consultants that serve foundations, corporations, or philanthropic entities.

Q: Are new grantmakers eligible for Council membership?
A: Yes. Organizations and programs that commit to start making grants that meet Council criteria are eligible for Council membership. Once admitted, these members are subject to review after three years of membership. Council staff will determine if the member remains eligible based on significant progress toward achieving grantmaking criteria.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS:

Q: Are philanthropic support organizations eligible to join the Council?
A: Service and support organizations that are nonprofit or for-profit businesses, enterprises, or companies and that provide services and support to the philanthropic sector and have an active involvement in philanthropy may join the Council as associate members. This is a nonvoting-member category.

Q: How does the Council define “nonprofit service and support organization or entity”?
A: These organizations and entities provide services and support to the philanthropic sector and have an active involvement in philanthropy. Examples include academic programs or centers in the nonprofit or philanthropic sectors and other nonprofit organizations that provide services to grantmakers and foundations. Hospital foundations and university foundations that do not meet the voting membership criteria are not eligible for associate membership.

Q: How does the Council define “for-profit service and support organization or entity”?
A: These organizations and entities are businesses, enterprises, or companies that provide services and support to the philanthropic sector and/or have an active involvement in philanthropy. Examples include legal and financial advisers to foundations, giving programs, and individual donors; law firms; consulting firms and consultants who advise in the practice of philanthropy or who advise organizations that serve the field of philanthropy; and vendors to the philanthropic field (software providers and publishers, for example).

Q: How does the Council define “bank or trust company”?
A: A bank or trust company consists of the trust or foundation-management department or function within a bank or trust company that manages charitable trusts, private foundations, or other philanthropic vehicles for clients and client organizations.


Membership Year 

Q: What is the Council’s membership year?
A: Council membership is based on the calendar year from January 1 through December 31.

Q: What happens if we join the Council after January?
A: Any new member that joins the Council between January and March pays a full year of dues. For new members that join in April or thereafter, we prorate the membership dues.


Membership Dues 

FULL MEMBERS:

Q: How are membership dues calculated?
A: The Council uses a three-year rolling average of assets and grants. For new members, the Council uses data for the three most recent years. For more information, please see the Membership Dues Calculation Worksheet and Schedule.

Q: The Council asks for asset information from the Form 990 and/or the Form 990 PF for the past three years in calculating membership dues. Do you require total asset or net asset information?
A: The Council requires net asset information from the Form 990 and/or the Form 990 PF.

Q: Is it possible to pay Council dues in the form of a grant?
A: You can pay for your Council membership—excluding $500 in administrative costs—through a grant, and the Council will fulfill all reporting requirements.

Q: What is the definition of “charitable support”?
A: Charitable support is defined as grants, donations, loans, and investments in support of charitable activities that are made for the public good. Charitable support must include funds given to grantees other than affiliates, chapters, or within a federated network. Charitable support does not include grants from the grantmaker to any related grantees, such as affiliates, branches, or chapters.

Q: Do in-kind donations count as charitable support?
A: Yes, in-kind and monetary grants and donations are recognized as a form of charitable support for purposes of membership eligibility.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS:

Q. How does the Council calculate membership dues for a nonprofit service and support organizations or entity?
A. The Council uses the following dues formula:

  • Minimum annual membership dues (for organizations that devote less than $500,000 of their annual budgets to the philanthropic sector)—$500
  • Plus $10 per $10,000 of organizational budget in excess of $500,000 devoted to the philanthropic sector
  • Maximum annual membership dues—$5,000

Q. How does the Council calculate membership dues for a for-profit service and support organizations or entity?
A. The Council uses the following dues formula:

  • Minimum annual membership dues (for organizations that devote less than $500,000 of their annual budgets to the philanthropic sector)—$500
  • Plus $10 per $10,000 of organizational budget in excess of $500,000 devoted to the philanthropic sector
  • Maximum annual membership dues—$10,000

Q. How does the Council calculate membership dues for a bank or trust company?
A. The Council uses the following dues formula:

  • Minimum annual membership dues (for organizations that devote less than $500,000 of their annual budgets to the philanthropic sector)—$500
  • Plus $10 per $10,000 of charitable assets under management in excess of $500,000. (Assets of a voting member of the Council will not be included when assessing dues for a bank or trust company.)
  • Maximum annual membership dues—$55,000

Corporate and Corporate-Giving Programs 

FULL MEMBERS:

Q: Our Council dues are intended to cover both our corporate-giving program and our corporate foundation. Does it matter which entity pays these dues?
A: Because your membership dues include membership for both the corporate-giving program and the corporate foundation, the dues must be paid by the parent company.

Q: As a corporate-giving program, will our Council dues qualify as a charitable deduction for federal income-tax purposes?
A: The amount of your dues that qualifies as a charitable deduction is limited to the amount of your contribution that is greater than the value of the goods and services provided to you as a member. Upon receipt of your dues, the Council will provide you with an estimate of the value of goods and services provided to corporate members.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS:

Not applicable


Types of Grantmaking Organizations 

FULL MEMBERS:

Q: Are non-U.S. foundations eligible to join the Council?
A: Yes. Non-U.S. foundations that operate similarly to U.S. foundations and meet the Council’s general membership requirements are eligible for membership.

Q: How does the Council define a Community Foundation?
A: Community foundations are tax-exempt public charities serving thousands of people who share a common interest—improving the quality of life in their area. With a long term goal of building permanent, named component funds established by many separate donors, a community foundation operates a broad grants program to multiple grantees that is limited neither by a single focus or cause nor exclusively to the interests of a particular constituency.

Q: Are government-controlled foundations eligible to join the Council?
A: In general, the organization’s governance structure must be independent of government control. However, foundations that are created by or operate under a tribal government do not have to meet this requirement. To determine whether an organization is independent of government control, we look at the composition of the governing body and the organization’s process for selecting members of the governing body. If government officials comprise a majority of the governing body or select the members of the governing body, the organization is probably not able to demonstrate autonomy from the government. U.S.-based foundations that are deemed not to be independent of government-control are not eligible for Council membership.

Q: Are federations eligible to join the Council?
A: Federations are eligible to join as long as they meet the general requirements for Council membership. Federations that fund only within their member organizations or within an exclusive network of grantees and do not fund outside of their federated structure are ineligible for membership because they do not give to two or more unrelated external organizations.

Q: How does the Council determine if an organization is a private operating foundation?
A: We check online with the IRS to determine whether a private operating foundation is listed in IRS Publication 78 as a Code 3. An additional online source is the organization’s Form 990 on Guidestar.

Q: Are organizations that support their own programs, affiliates, or chapters eligible to join the Council?
A: These organizations come in many forms:

  • Private operating foundations
  • Supporting organizations (which can include certain hospital and university foundations)
  • Organizations that make grants within an exclusive network of grantees
  • Organizations that make grants to other organizations that are legally under their umbrella
  • Organizations that make grants to programs operating under their umbrella

These organizations may join if they also make two or more annual grants outside of their own network, programs, or affiliates. Private operating foundations are eligible even if they do not make external grants, provided they meet the legal requirements of private operating foundations in the Internal Revenue Code.

Q: Are hospital foundations and university foundations eligible to join the Council?
A: Hospital foundations and university foundations are eligible to join if they meet the general requirements for Council membership. If a hospital or university foundation is functioning solely to be the fundraising arm for the hospital or university, it is not eligible for membership because it does not meet the Council’s general membership requirement to provide charitable support to two or more unrelated external organizations or individuals on an annual basis.

Q: Are giving circles and collective-giving groups eligible to join the Council?
A: Giving circles and similar groups, even if not legally organized, are eligible to join as long as they meet the general requirements for Council membership. The structure of giving circles and collective giving can be informal or formal. On the informal side, for example, the group may choose an organization to support, and each member may write an individual check. Council membership would be for the giving circle or group as an entity, not for each individual.

If such groups conduct their grantmaking through a local community foundation or other philanthropic entity that already is a Council member, there is no need to join the Council separately because the group may enjoy benefits through the member organization. However, the group may seek its own membership if it so chooses. If the group conducts grantmaking through a nonmember organization, the group may join the Council, provided it meets the general requirements for Council membership.

Q: Are venture philanthropy groups eligible to join the Council?
A: Venture philanthropy groups, even if not legally organized, are eligible to join as long as they meet the general requirements for Council membership. If such groups conduct their grantmaking through a local community foundation or other philanthropic organization that already is a Council member, there is no need to join the Council separately because the group may enjoy benefits through the member organization. However, the group may seek its own membership, if it so chooses. If the group conducts grantmaking through a nonmember organization, the group may join the Council provided it meets the general requirements for Council membership. Council membership would cover the group, not each individual.

Q: Are service clubs and service organizations eligible to join the Council?
A: Service clubs and organizations are eligible to join if their primary activity is grantmaking and they meet the general requirements for Council membership. A service club or organization is defined as a voluntary nonprofit organization whose members meet regularly to perform charitable works either by direct hands-on efforts or by raising money for other organizations.

Q: Are affinity groups eligible to join the Council?
A: The Council finds it is most effective to work with collegial organizations on a collaborative basis, rather than in a service-delivery capacity. Thus, affinity groups are not eligible for Council membership.

Q: Are regional associations of grantmakers eligible to join the Council?
A: The Council finds it is most effective to work with collegial organizations on a collaborative basis, rather than in a service-delivery capacity. Thus, regional associations are not eligible for Council membership.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS:

Not applicable


Supporting and Geographic Affiliate Organizations 

FULL MEMBERS:

Q: Are supporting organizations eligible to join the Council?
A: Supporting organizations typically are established in connection with an existing 501(c)(3) charity, though they also may be set up in connection with another eligible publicly supported tax-exempt organization such as a 501(c)(4), (5), or (6). Many supporting organizations, such as hospital and university foundations, contribute all of their funds to the charity to which they are connected. If the supporting organization only makes grants to such organizations, it is ineligible for Council membership. Council members must make grants to two or more unrelated external grantees each year. The Council may review the supporting organization’s governing documents and a list of the supporting organization’s grantees to determine eligibility.

Q: What types of supporting organizations may a community foundation include in its membership-dues calculations?
A: The Council recognizes both Type I and Type II supporting organizations as part of a community foundation’s membership. We calculate dues based on the assets of the foundation and the supporting organization.

Q: What is the definition of a geographic affiliate?
A: A geographic affiliate is defined as a component fund (or collection of component funds) established within or by the community foundation to serve a defined geographic region under a common advisory group.

Q: How does the Council determine which organizations are supporting organizations?
A: A supporting organization will have an IRS determination letter indicating it is a 509(a)(3) entity.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS:

Not applicable


Donor-Advised Funds 

Q: Are donor-advised funds or other funds sponsored by a member community foundation eligible to join the Council?
A: Donor-advised funds or other funds (known as component funds) sponsored by a member community foundation may benefit from the foundation’s access to Council services. Separate Council membership is not available for the fund.

Q: Are donor-advised funds or other funds sponsored by a nonmember Community Foundation eligible to join the Council?
A: If the community foundation is not a Council member, the fund is not eligible to join the Council separately.

Q: Are accounts (or funds) maintained at a commercial entity or by the 501(c)(3) division at such an entity eligible to join the Council?
A: Pursuant to a moratorium approved by the Council board, accounts (commercial charitable-gift funds and other component funds) that are maintained at a commercial entity or by the related 501(c)(3) organization of such an entity are not eligible for Council membership.

Q: Are commercial entities or the related 501(c)(3) organization of such entities that maintain accounts (commercial charitable-gift funds and other component funds) eligible to join the Council?
A: Pursuant to a moratorium approved by the Council board, these entities are not eligible for Council membership, including associate membership.


Philanthropic Advisors Network (PAN) 

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS:

Q: Are Philanthropic Advisers Network (PAN) memberships still available?
A: Effective January 1, 2011, the Council no longer offers new PAN memberships.

Q: Are current PAN members still eligible to join the Council?
A: Current PAN members will remain active as PAN members through the end of 2011, at which point they will be eligible for associate member status.