Statement of Ethical Principles

The Council on Foundations and its members promote the highest standards of ethical behavior. In recognition of the importance of philanthropy toward the public good and those we serve, we adopt these ethical principles.


Our members are committed to the public benefit and to their philanthropic purposes and act accordingly.


Our members manage their resources to maximize philanthropic purposes, not private gain; and actively avoid excessive compensation and unreasonable or unnecessary expenses. They pursue maximum benefit through their work, how they work, and by supporting the work of partners, colleagues and grantees.

Accountability and Transparency

In carrying out their philanthropic activities, our members embrace both the letter and the spirit of the law. They welcome public interest, take responsibility for their actions and communicate truthfully.

Diversity and Inclusiveness

Our members seek diversity and inclusiveness in order to reflect the communities they serve and to ensure that a range of perspectives contribute to the common good and the development of their mission in a changing society.


Our members’ governing bodies understand and embrace their responsibility to oversee the mission, strategic direction, finances and operations of their respective organizations, and do so honestly and with integrity. They establish clear and understandable policies and ensure that they are followed.


Members interact respectfully with grantees, colleagues, donors and peers.

The Statement of Ethical Principles defines the ethical expectations the Council has for its members and serves as the basis against which member conduct will be considered for purposes of the sanctions process.

Since this effort began with a careful consideration of the Principles and Practices for Effective Grantmaking, many of those original principles are incorporated within the new document. This Statement of Ethical Principles replaces the Principles and Practices for Effective Grantmaking for purposes of Council membership and the Council’s sanctions process. Accordingly, new Council members will be required to subscribe to the Statement of Ethical Principles when they become members and existing members will be asked to reaffirm that commitment each year when they renew.

The committee’s work also was informed by the work of the various constituent groups that have been developing stewardship principles—the spirit of which are reflected in the Statement of Ethical Principles. Practical guidance on governance and grantmaking can be found in numerous constituent and issue-specific resources including several regional associations.