Mastering Foundation Law: The Council on Foundations Compendium of Legal Resources

Everything you need to know about foundation law in one easy-to-use, regularly updated guide

The Council on Foundations's Compendium of Legal Resources (“Compendium”), is a comprehensive guide to foundation law for the non-lawyer. It is easy to use, self-directed, and regularly updated.

The Council developed the Compendium in direct response to requests from our members to publish new legal desktop guides. Rather than update old materials that could quickly turn into unusable books on a shelf whenever the law was changed, the Council created a series of chapters covering various legal topics that can be acccessed electronically.

As of July 2019, all chapters of the Compendium are free to members as a benefit of Council membership!


What is the Compendium of Legal Resources?

Mastering Foundation Law: The Council on Foundations Compendium of Legal Resources is a collection of chapters on legal topics that can be accessed electronically. The Compendium allows all readers--even those without legal training--to understand the laws impacting philanthropy.

Each chapter delves into a separate topic of foundation law and is written by Council attorneys with contributions from other experienced attorneys. There will be a significant number of topics intended to benefit community and private foundations separately. The chapters also include tips for incorporating relevant law into your foundation's policies, procedures, and work plans.

Because the laws and regulations affecting foundations sometimes change unexpectedly, the Compendium will refresh to remain current, and new chapters will be added periodically.


Which Chapters are Available?

These chapters are currently available:

These are the chapters that are planned to be released next:

  • UBIT
  • Charitable Solicitation Regulation and Other State Fundraising Regulations

How do Members Access Chapters for Free?

Members of the Council may download each chapter for free through the above chapter links. Members may also join the dedicated Legal Compendium community on the Philanthropy Exchange. To request access to this community, please contact membership@cof.org or call (202) 991-2225.

How do Nonmembers Purchase the Compendium?

The Compendium is currently available to nonmembers as an annual subscription which begins in the month it is purchased and ends one year later. The annual subcription cost for nonmembers is $749. Subscribers receive chapters as they are released through the Philanthropy Exchange. Existing chapters will be updated to reflect new information or changes to the law. Revised chapters will be posted online and those whose subscriptions are current will be alerted to their availability.

There are two subscription options, All Staff Access or Assigned Staff Access. The price for either option is $749.

Starting a Foundation: Formation and Considerations is available as a stand alone product for $149 and does not require a subscription to purchase. 

What Topics will the Compendium Cover?

The Compendium will eventually include 38 chapters, with additional topics including:

  • Board Governance and Accountability
  • Overview of the Law Governing Private Foundations
  • Fundraising Law
  • Foundation Termination, Merger and Dissolution
  • IRS Form 990, 990-PF and other Reporting Requirements
  • Foundation Management: Human Resources and Other Administrative Issues
  • Foundation Property and Assets
  • Executive Compensation, Excess Benefit Transactions and Intermediate Sanctions
  • Communications, Marketing and Public Relations
  • Asset Development and Donor Relations
  • Gift Restrictions and Donor Intent
  • Planned Giving Arrangements
  • Tax Issues Related to Gifts of Property
  • Grantmaking Basics and Permissible Grantees
  • Scholarships, Fellowships and Student Loan Forgiveness
  • Disaster Assistance and Emergency Hardship Funds
  • Program Related Investments and Other Alternative Funding Options
  • Public Private Partnerships
  • Charitable Activities of American Indian Tribes
  • Self-Dealing and Private Foundations
  • Private Foundation Minimum Distribution Requirements
  • Jeopardy Investments, Excess Business Holding Restrictions and Taxable Expenditures
  • Succession Planning for Family Foundations
  • Fund Types and Considerations for Community Foundations
  • Donor Advised Funds
  • Calculating the Public Support Test
  • Community Foundations and Agency Funds
  • Community Foundations and Geographic Affiliates
  • Community Foundations and Non-Component Funds
  • Community Leadership and the Future for Community Foundations