Member Eligibility

We are proud to offer two levels of Council membership: Voting and Associate Membership.

Voting Membership

Foundations, corporations or philanthropic entities eligible for voting membership must satisfy the following general requirements:

  • The applicant must be organized as a tax exempt legal entity in good standing with the IRS and the state of incorporation, or in the case of corporate giving programs, the corporation is a legal entity in good standing with the IRS and state of incorporation.
  • The applicant is governed by a board of directors or trustees.
  • Charitable support is a primary activity. “Charitable support” is defined as grants, donations and investments in support of the charitable activities of one or more other organizations. Private operating foundations as defined in section 4942(j)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, meet the “charitable support” requirement if the requirements in section 4942(j)(3) are met.

Non-U.S. foundations that are recognized by their governments are eligible for membership in the Council.

In the case of a corporation that maintains a corporate giving program and a corporate foundation, the corporate giving program cannot join separately without the corporate foundation also joining. Assets of both may be aggregated for purposes of calculating membership dues.

Foundations that are chartered by government action may join provided all other criteria are met.

The Council on Foundations has sole discretion to admit provisional voting membership status to newly formed grantmaking organizations at a dues rate determined by the Council. Organizations seeking provisional membership should expect to provide documentation including, but not limited to, proof of application with the state of incorporation, organizing documents, bylaws, and an IRS determination letter or submitted Form 1023. Organizations approved for provisional membership will also be required to submit copies of their initial Forms 990/990-PF within 12 months of membership approval or they may be deemed ineligible for membership renewal in subsequent years.

If an organization is eligible for Voting membership, they are disqualified from Associate membership.

Associate Membership

Non-profit and for-profit service and support organizations, businesses and individuals that provide services and support to the philanthropic sector and/or have an active involvement in philanthropy and that do not qualify for voting membership may apply for associate membership in the Council. Membership associations, Universities, and non-profit organizations that do not have a grantmaking function are not eligible for membership with the Council.

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Financial and investment advisers, family offices, banks and trust companies that serve the philanthropic sector
  • Law firms and attorneys that advise individuals and organizations regarding philanthropic activity
  • Consulting firms and consultants who advise in the practice of philanthropy or who advise organizations that serve the field of philanthropy
  • Vendors to the philanthropic field (e.g., software providers, publishers)
  • Academic institutions and programs that support and serve the philanthropic sector

Additionally, individuals who have previously served the Council as board members, volunteers, or in some other capacity and are not currently affiliated with any organization eligible for Council membership, but who wish to continue to support the work of the Council may apply for associate membership.

Associate members are not entitled to vote at the annual meeting of the membership. Associate members are subject to the Council’s non-solicitation policy at all Council events.

View the Council's Membership and Dues Policy

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is my group eligible if it is a:

Donor advised fund

A: The Council does not offer a separate membership to donor advised funds. Donor-advised funds affiliated with a community foundation may benefit from the foundation's access to Council services as a member foundation.

Giving circle or collective-giving group

A: Giving circles and similar groups must be legally organized to be eligible to join as a voting member of the Council. Unfortunately, most giving circles and collective-giving groups are not legal entities and therefore are not eligible to join. Council membership for legally organized giving circles and collective-giving groups 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.

Government-controlled foundation

A: Foundations that are chartered by government action may join provided all other criteria are met.

Hospital or university foundation

A: Hospital and university foundations are eligible to join if they meet the general requirements for membership. For example, even though a hospital foundation may provide charitable support for a single nonprofit hospital, it will generally meet the requirement that a member provide charitable support to one or more other organizations as a primary activity.

Subsidiary, affiliate, supporting organization, chapter, division, or component fund

A: Applicants may list their subsidiaries, affiliates, supporting organizations, chapters and divisions on the membership application, and such subsidiaries, affiliates, supporting organizations, chapters and divisions may receive Council benefits under the umbrella of the parent organization/applicant's membership provided however that all listed subsidiaries, affiliates, supporting organizations, chapters and divisions are subject to the governance and control of the parent organization/applicant and the assets of all subsidiaries, affiliates, supporting organizations, chapters and divisions are included in the membership dues calculations.

Organization supporting their own programs

A: As long as grants, donations and investments are made in support of the charitable activities of one or more other organizations.