Council on Foundations

Council on Foundations

The Council on Foundations, formed in 1949, is a nonprofit membership association of grantmaking foundations and corporations. Members of the Council include more than 1,750 independent, operating, community, public, and company-sponsored foundations, and corporate giving programs in the United States and abroad. The Council’s mission is to provide the opportunity, leadership, and tools needed by philanthropic organizations to expand, enhance, and sustain their ability to advance the common good. [Council on Foundations 1]


Council Profile

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 its members, the Council adopted these ethical principles.[Council on Foundations 2]

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

Stewardship: 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. Learn more.

Governance: 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.

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

The Philanthropic Sector

Community Foundations

Community foundations are tax-exempt public charities serving thousands of people who share a common interest—improving the quality of life in their area.

Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create permanent charitable funds that help their region meet the challenges of changing times. The foundation invests and administers these funds.

All community foundations are overseen by a volunteer board of leading citizens and run by professionals with expertise in identifying their communities’ needs.

In the United States, community foundations serve tens of thousands of donors, administer more than $31 billion in charitable funds, and address the core concerns of nearly 700 communities and regions. [Council on Foundations 3]

Corporate Grantmakers

Corporate giving is the making of charitable investments by companies engaged in business activity. Responsible corporate funders plan their giving strategically to attack root causes of problems that threaten the health of global communities (and therefore the health of the corporations themselves). These social investments can be cash, products, in-kind services, or employee voluntarism. Many companies make charitable contributions through both a company-sponsored foundation and a corporate contributions program.[Council on Foundations 4]

Family Philanthropy

The Council on Foundations defines a family foundation as one whose funds are derived from members of a single family. At least one family member must continue to serve as an officer or board member of the foundation and, as the donor, that individual (or a relative) must play a significant role in governing and/or managing the foundation. [Council on Foundations 5]

Global Philanthropy

The Council on Foundations defines “international grantmaking” to include grants made by U.S. foundations and corporations to overseas recipients as well as grants made to U.S.-based organizations operating international programs. This includes grants made toward activities wholly within the Unites States that have significant international purpose and impact. [Council on Foundations 6]


Private foundations make grants based on charitable endowments. The endowment funds come from one or a small handful of sources -- an individual, a family or a corporation. Because of their endowments, they are focused primarily on grantmaking and generally do not raise funds or seek public financial support the way public charities (like community foundations) must.

Private independent foundations are distinct from private family or corporate foundations in that an independent foundation is not governed by the benefactor, the benefactor’s family or a corporation. Of the largest private foundations in the United States, most are independent foundations, although they may have begun as family foundations. [Council on Foundations 7]


Full members of the Council on Foundations are foundations, corporations or philanthropic entities that primarily provide charitable support to two or more unrelated, external organizations or individuals on an annual basis and that support the public good.

Nonvoting associate members of the Council on Foundations are philanthropic support entities, organizations or consultants that are engaged in the professional business of serving foundations, corporations or philanthropic entities. [Council on Foundations 8]

Member benefits include the availability of tools and techniques of the trade, networking opportunities, legal resources, government relations advocacy, and professional development for foundations, corporate giving programs and service providers.[Council on Foundations 9]

Professional Development

The Council’s educational offerings are designed to help all grantmaking professionals be successful. Grantmakers have the ability to connect with thought leaders and like-minded practitioners to learn about emerging issues that affect their work, foundation, and professional relationships. The Council provides a variety of professional development opportunities including: webinars, seminars, three premiere conferences, new grantmaker workshops, peer networks, exclusive CEO gatherings, and trustee resources. [Council on Foundations 10]

Career Pathways Program

The Council on Foundations' Career Pathways program is one of the nation's premier programs to prepare philanthropic leaders and to help foundations and grantmakers acquire and retain the best management talent. It fosters diversity, inclusion, and excellence in philanthropic leadership for mid-career professionals.

The program helps increase the number of candidates from diverse backgrounds in the leadership pipeline who are considered for, appointed to, and retained in senior and executive positions in philanthropic organizations. The year-long leadership program is open to those who are currently employed by foundations and grantmaking institutions.[Council on Foundations 11]

Council on Foundations Awards

The Council on Foundations Awards programs annually honor the contributions of the best in philanthropy, to enhance personal growth and accomplishment of its members, to provide role models, and strengthen the image of philanthropy.

Wilmer Shields Rich Awards

The Wilmer Shields Rich Awards Program for Excellence in Communications ecognizes and encourages excellence in communications by foundations and corporate giving programs. It is named after the woman who served as executive director of the National Council on Community Foundations (now the Council on Foundations) from 1957 to 1968. During her tenure, Rich championed public accountability by charitable foundations, urging them to effectively communicate their stewardship via publications and other forums. The program allows the Council to showcase the ways foundations and corporate giving programs effectively communicate achievements in order to advance grantmaking goals. The categories are Annual and Biennial Reports, Electronic Publications, Special Reports, and Websites. [Council on Foundations 12]

Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking

The Scrivner Award honors grantmakers who, with a combination of vision, principle, and personal commitment, are making a critical difference in a creative way. It was established in 1985 as a memorial to the late Robert Winston Scrivner by a number of his friends and colleagues. Scrivner was a former staff associate of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the first executive director of the Rockefeller Family Fund. [Council on Foundations 13]

The Distinguished Service Award

The Distinguished Service Award puts the spotlight on an individual or individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of philanthropy. First presented in 1984, this award celebrates those who exemplify the values and practices that the Council promotes and encourages. [Council on Foundations 14]

The Newman’s Own Award

The Newman’s Own Award was established in 2010 by the Council on Foundations and Newman’s Own Foundation to recognize individuals who have used their professional achievement for significant philanthropic service and/or leadership. [Council on Foundations 15]

The Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media

The Henry Hamp ton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media was launched in 2002 to honor foundations’ support of creative, high-quality productions that expand the boundaries of the use of media for the social good. The award is named in honor of Henry Hampton (1940-1998), who was one of the 20th century’s most influential documentary filmmakers. [Council on Foundations 16]

External links


  1. ^ "National Community Foundation Conference Kicks Off in San Francisco To Address Critical Issues in Philanthropy". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "Who We Are". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Community Foundations". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Corporate Grantmaking". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  5. ^ "Family Philanthropy". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Global Philanthropy". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Independent". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Membership". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "Member Benefits". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "Professional Development". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Career Pathways". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "Wilmer Shields Rich Award". Wilmer Shields Rich Award. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  13. ^ "Scrivner Award". Scrivner Award. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  14. ^ "The Distinguished Service Award". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  15. ^ "Newmans' Own award". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  16. ^ "Henry Hampton Award". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 

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