Public Policy Guideposts

The Council on Foundations provides the opportunity, leadership and tools needed by philanthropy to expand, enhance, and sustain their ability to advance the common good1. As a national public policy voice for philanthropy in the United States, the Council is in a unique position to serve as a trusted resource to its members, public officials, the philanthropic sector2, civil society, and the general public on issues affecting philanthropy.

In its policy work, the Council provides leadership on behalf of the philanthropic sector to advance philanthropy as a core value, strengthen relationships between the philanthropic sector, government, and private business, and civil society, actively engage policymakers on the importance of philanthropy and its role in society, and serve as a channel for innovative ideas and sector knowledge.

These guideposts are intended to assist Council leadership in making decisions regarding its future public policy work. Through this work, the Council will strive to foster a philanthropic sector that is:



A strong and dynamic philanthropic sector is important to the long-term well-being of our society. The Council will advance public policies that strengthen the philanthropic sector to ensure that the sector continues to thrive.


As a trusted voice for our diverse membership and the philanthropic sector, the Council will actively identify and pursue public policies that would enhance the work of the philanthropic sector and allow it to operate more efficiently and effectively. The Council willalso network with allied organizations to anticipate and be able to effectively respond to future policy proposals.


The Council will stay consistently knowledgeable of federal and state legal, regulatory, or administrative developments that would impact philanthropy, such as changes to the charitable giving incentives in the tax code. The Council will advocate in favor of policies that would allow the philanthropic sector to thrive, and against policies that are overly burdensome or would weaken the sector. The Council will also work with policymakers to explore reasonable policy alternatives.


Philanthropic organizations should practice high standards of ethics and integrity in order to maintain the trust of policymakers and the public. To promote this goal, the Council recognizes the importance of transparency and accountability and will play a leadership role in promoting public policies that facilitate and encourage voluntary compliance with laws and regulations without creating an undue burden for thesector.


Cross-sector partnerships and relationship building are critical to an effective philanthropic sector and the Council is well-positioned to bring together government, philanthropy, and private business to address the most pressing issues in our society. In this work, the Council will strive to facilitate mutually-beneficial public-private partnerships and collaborative interactions among philanthropy, charitable organizations, civil society, the private sector, and government at all levels.


The Council recognizes the importance and value of the diversity of our membership and the philanthropic sector as a whole. The Council will promote a legal and regulatory framework that treats all philanthropic organizations and vehicles equitably. However, the Council will push back against efforts to impose any one-size-fits all solution for the sector.


Philanthropy thrives under policies that allow the philanthropic sector to be nimble, flexible, and independent of government and for-profit business. The Council will promote public policies that preserve the autonomy of the sector and capitalize upon philanthropy’s unique ability to leverage private dollars for the common good.


Philanthropy is an incubator for great ideas, and philanthropists can reach into uncharted territory for creative solutions to society’s most challenging problems. The Council will further public policies that allow the sector to remain innovative and cutting-edge.

1 “Common good” is defined as the sum total of conditions that enable community members to thrive. These achievements have a shared nature that goes beyond individual benefits.

2 “Philanthropic sector” is defined as all vehicles that bring people together to enhance the effectiveness, impact, and leverage of philanthropy. This includes private and community foundations, corporate foundations and giving programs, operating foundations and public foundations, as well as emerging giving and grantmaking mechanisms involving collective participation.