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Learn Foundation Law: New Resources on Advocacy & Lobbying

Today’s post is written by the Office of the General Counsel at the Packard Foundation. The legal and compliance teams are responsible for helping program staff get good grants out the door and into the hands of the organizations with whom we partner. This team is excited to share a new resource for grantee partner organizations interested in learning more about the legal issues affecting private foundation grantmaking.

One of the best parts of working at a private Foundation is notifying an organization that their grant has been awarded. We are inspired by the amazing work these organizations do and know how much effort goes into the grantmaking process, long before we are even able to draft an award letter.

For many organizations, advocacy for their mission is a critical part of their work. Sometimes, nonprofits and foundations decide that the safest route when it comes to advocacy is to do nothing because of a lack of understanding around the rules. But that’s not necessary! What is essential is understanding the guidelines on what is and isn’t possible with private foundation funding.

Enter Maya and Alex, the main characters in the newest Learn Foundation Law courses, which seek to help organizations navigate the rules around advocacy and lobbying and to explain how private foundations can fund public policy work. Maya is a program officer at a private foundation, and Alex is the executive director of a public charity. Together, the cheerfully animated Maya and Alex walk us through the rules for advocacy and lobbying for public charity grantees of private foundations, as well as electioneering rules for both private foundations and public charities. For example, the advocacy and lobbying training includes the following:

  • Descriptions of different types of advocacy activities to help identify which activities are permissible for private foundation funding and which require greater scrutiny
  • Demonstrations of how the lobbying laws apply when private foundations are funding advocacy work by public charities
  • A review of the types of grants and funding options private foundations can provide, summarizing how foundations can fund when advocacy and lobbying are involved
  • Suggestions for maximizing the limits placed on public charities and private foundations by the IRS

Learn Foundation Law is a free, first-of-its-kind resource that hosts e-trainings and digital tools related to the basic legal rules for private foundations and public charities. Most of these interactive courses take less than one hour to complete. Participants can return to any training at any time for a refresher and click on individual modules to access specific topics. There are even downloadable resources that users can print and save for future reference.

At the Packard Foundation, the Office of the General Counsel team uses the “For Foundations” courses to onboard new staff as well as for our own reference. One of the best aspects of the Learn Foundation Law courses is that they are essentially timeless – although there are regular enhancements and new course offerings, the content only needs to be updated as often as the federal regulations (which is rarely). We know that if everyone on our program and legal teams is familiar with the Learn Foundation Law content, we have a solid foundation to start our grant review conversations. Hopefully, the For Grantees courses provide a useful resource for grant-seeking organizations as they seek to increase the impact of their work.

We encourage you to utilize resources like Learn Foundation Law and to ask questions as often and as early as necessary. We can’t wait to see what change-making work you take on next!

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