Legal Compliance

As a benefit of membership, the Council on Foundations attorneys and legal staff provide information and education to Council members regarding a variety of topics related to foundation operations and legal compliance. All information on this website, and all publications, articles, e-mail correspondence and telephone consultations provided by Council attorneys and legal staff are intended for informational purposes only and not as part of an attorney-client relationship. Council attorneys are not licensed in every state and cannot provide legal representation. The information is not a substitute for expert legal, tax or other professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances, and may not be relied upon for the purposes of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code.

This chapter discusses the federal tax laws governing supporting organizations. As a result of the Tax Reform Act of 1969, private foundations receive considerably less favorable treatment under tax law than public charities. Supporting organizations are a hybrid of private foundations and public charities that generally enjoy more favorable tax treatment than private foundations because they are exempt from many of the excise taxes imposed on private foundations.

This chapter of Mastering Foundation Law describes the IRS audit process for exempt organizations, including private foundations; highlights current areas of enforcement focus; and discusses the value of formal legal opinions for private foundations and their managers.

This chapter of Mastering Foundation Law examines Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) and other laws that govern the management and investment of endowments and other foundation financial assets. It also includes a discussion of the board’s role and the use of outside advisors.

This chapter of Mastering Foundation Law is intended to examine and explain those common legal characteristics shared by community foundations and to provide a comprehensive legal overview of the rules and regulations that govern community foundations. Federal tax law will be the focus although certain sections will discuss state-specific law. You will also find some comparisons between community foundations and other organizations such as private foundations.

Community Foundation Week (#CFWeek) is a prime opportunity to highlight the critical role of community philanthropy in supporting a thriving local community.

The Advocacy Toolkit is designed to be a central resource for Council members and others engaged in the philanthropic space to learn about why it is important—now more than ever—for philanthropy to have a voice in policy, how to effectively use advocacy and lobbying to advance your mission, what the most critical or priority "asks" are for the sector at any given time, and to better understand the key policy issues that are top-of-mind for our sector.

This element of the advocacy toolkit is meant to provide specific resources on "how-to" when it comes to engaging with your policymakers—particularly with your Members of Congress and their staff.

Though the law varies somewhat between what community and public foundations are allowed to do, versus what private foundations are allowed to do in terms of lobbying, all foundation-types can engage in advocacy!