This month marks my 20-year anniversary of passing the bar and becoming an attorney, and sometimes I think I’ve heard it all when it comes to nonprofit law. Thank goodness for the Council’s community foundation members, who continually challenge me with unique and interesting questions, and give me the opportunity to crack open the Code books and learn something new daily.
I like to keep tabs on the hot topics that keep popping up, and I welcome the opportunity to help community foundations navigate these sometimes murky waters. For example, community foundations will often ask about economic development as a charitable activity and the legal parameters that a community foundation should observe. Through a series of legal rulings and decisions dating back to the 1970s, the IRS has provided us with information and examples that can guide community foundations interested in funding local economic development activities. I have had many enjoyable conversations with creative community foundation folks discussing ways (within the law) to help new businesses, neighborhoods and municipalities jump-start economic development.
I also see the creativity and passion of community foundations show up in projects and ideas that are designed to attract and keep the younger generation living and working in our smaller communities. Student loan assistance, fellowships, and corporate-sponsored internships are being created by community foundations across the country to address this need and strengthen communities.
Finally, information about advocacy, lobbying, and political activity is currently a popular request (the timing is no coincidence). Community foundations can be powerful voices for policy change, but they need to understand the legal restrictions that apply to charitable organizations. The Council is a great resource for information about the rules, but also for ideas about how to get involved.
As we all celebrate community foundation week, I wanted to offer my thanks to our community foundation members that keep me on my toes, bring me into their conversations, and share the amazing work they are doing.