Public Policy

The Council actively asserts its leadership role in the global policy space to ensure a positive regulatory environment for global philanthropy. To do that, the Council develops substantive policy positions on behalf of its members and submits regulatory comments and letters to U.S. policymakers, foreign governments and intergovernmental bodies, and advocates before domestic and international bodies that set policies that impact cross-border philanthropy.

The Council on Foundations supports mandatory electronic filing of Form 990s and publicly-available data about the nonprofit sector, while cautioning lawmakers to involve nonprofits in implementation and ensure adequate data protection.

The Council supports recent efforts by the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and Internal Revenue Services (IRS) to provide much-needed clarity on the political activities of tax-exempt organizations. However, the Council strongly opposes any new rules that would dampen nonpartisan activities and civic engagement efforts of nonprofit organizations.

In this week's Washington Snapshot: Council Releases August Advocacy Toolkit; News from the Hill; Regulatory News; Trending in Legal Affairs; Happening in the States; Philanthropy News & Op-Eds; and more!

Advocacy and engagement with lawmakers is an essential part of preserving and strengthening philanthropy. It provides an opportunity for you to communicate—in a variety of ways—the positive impact of charitable giving in the lives of their constituents every day, and ensure that they understand how the decisions they make in Washington matter at home.

The Council has concerns about proposals in recent years that would expand the scope of the unrelated business income tax. Currently under Section 512(a) of the Internal Revenue Code, nonprofits are subject to tax on gross income, minus directly connected expenses, for activities that constitute an "unrelated trade or business." The Code offers a three-pronged test for determining whether a particular activity is an "unrelated trade or business." The activity must be (1) a trade or business that is (2) regularly carried on, and (3) isn't substantially related to the organization's exempt purpose. There are currently many exceptions to what activities qualify as "unrelated trade or business," including exceptions for volunteer services.

The Council opposes any policy proposal that would eliminate types of supporting organizations and reduce the variety and flexibility of charitable giving tools available to foundations and donors alike. Supporting organizations are important charitable tools that donors can use to achieve their specific philanthropic goals. Many of the Council’s members utilize supporting organizations to maximize their impact. Often, a supporting organization manages fundraising or investments for the supported organization to allow it to focus on its core charitable mission, whether grantmaking or providing direct services.