Letter to Colleagues and Friends

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This is part of "What Every Grantmaker Should Know & Frequently Asked Legal Questions."

View the complete table of contents or download the PDF.

Prior to a reprinting in December 2009, this publication was reviewed and updated to reflect changes in law since its first printing in 2007. As always, we encourage grantmakers to seek legal counsel before acting on any matter described in this publication.

As part of our continuing efforts to help foundations maintain and improve the effectiveness of their work, the Minnesota Council on Foundations has prepared this comprehensive resource to help private, corporate and community/public foundations understand their legal requirements and obligations. This publication and its companion piece, Principles for Grantmakers & Practice Options for Philanthropic Organizations, are key publications in MCF's Philanthropy & Public Trust series.

Since its founding in 1969, the Council has offered numerous seminars and publications, drawing on the expertise of member law firms and other interested and informed members. MCF also has fielded frequent legal-related questions from its foundation members every year. This guidebook comprises two specific Council efforts:

  • Information around key foundation topics, which are important for every grantmaking organization to know, was developed in seven 2004-2005 issues of MCF Notes newsletter in its previous print format.
  • Answers to the most common legal questions that the Council had received over the years were originally presented online in 2003 as "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on Foundation Law."

The information in this combined publication has been expanded and updated, reflecting changes in law and specific provisions of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. These documents will continue to be updated as legal requirements change. Look for the most up-to-date versions at www.mcf.org/publictrust.

We have many individuals to thank. An MCF task force originally laid out the scope of Legal FAQs project. A majority of the work presented here derives from four of Minnesota's top foundation legal experts: Hazen Graves, Gina Kastel, Mary Probst and Claire Topp. We also laud the singular contribution of former MCF vice president David Biemesderfer in drafting the original "What Every Grantmaker Should Know" series. He is now a consultant working with grantmakers and grantmaker associations around the country.

We would be remiss if we did not call attention to the generous contributions of three member foundations in supporting our Philanthropy & Public Trust work. Northwest Area Foundation, among the Council's charter members, has been the major financial supporter of the public trust work, together with Cargill and Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation. Finally, the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers provided a grant that has allowed us to send these two publications to every grantmaker in the state of Minnesota.

We commend this work to you and wish you well in all your efforts to embrace public trust.

Sincerely, Bill King, President, Minnesota Council on Foundations

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