How to Use the Practice Options

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This is part of "Principles for Grantmakers & Practice Options for Philanthropic Organizations."

View the complete table of contents or download the PDF.

This document presents a range of Practice Options that grantmaking organizations can employ to attain the Principles for Grantmakers. Board and staff leaders will adopt Practice Options for their organizations, based on the varying philosophical and practical issues that foundations and giving programs face in their work and interactions with communities and constituents.

The Council recognizes that the degree to which a philanthropic organization can implement individual practice options will depend on: The grantmaking organization's governing documents (which may include requirements and restrictions).

  • Its history, philosophy and stage of organizational development.
  • The makeup of the board and the members' relationships to the philanthropy (family members, corporate officers or employees, independent board members, etc.).
  • Its asset size and level of grantmaking.
  • Whether it is staffed or unstaffed.
  • Whether it gives only to pre-selected charities; is a proactive grantmaker and uses a call for proposals; or accepts unsolicited grant proposals.
  • Cost-effectiveness.

The Practice Options in this document are ever-changing. They represent good practices at a point in time and recognize that as an organization evolves so, too, should the choice of Practice Options it employs in its work. Philanthropic organizations are encouraged to use these Practice Options as a benchmark and to evaluate them annually, or when appropriate, to update their organizational practices.

Structure of Practice Options

  1. Practice Options required to comply with the law are highlighted in each section in boldface type within a shaded box. Not all legal compliance issues can be fully articulated in this statement. A Legal Compliance Checklist and other accountability tools are available.
  2. All Practice Options not related to legal compliance comprise a range of alternative options that each grantmaking organization may undertake to work toward improving its practices and aligning them with those practices considered exemplary by the field.
  3. Each philanthropic organization will need to determine which Practice Options to implement based on the size, scope and capacity of its philanthropic organization, its structures and its specific commitment to public trust and accountability.
  4. The terms Director, Trustee and Board Member are used interchangeably to represent the governing body of the organization.

We trust that philanthropic organizations will recognize the unique circumstances for their foundations/giving programs and will employ Practice Options that are in the spirit of the Principles for Grantmakers. The Council board and staff are prepared to assist Minnesota grantmakers in discussions of the Principles for Grantmakers and these Practice Options, as requested.

Definitions of Race/Diversity or Inclusive Practices

In several places within the Practice Options, there are references to race/diversity or inclusive practices. For the purposes of our work, we have included groups of individuals traditionally identified in various definitions or included in language related to human rights laws.

Diverse characteristics that may be important to our philanthropic work include, but are not limited to, individuals who bring perspectives based on race, color, religion, gender, age, disability, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation or diverse social/political ideology.


In addition to deriving these Practice Options from the original Principles and Practices for Grantmakers, the Minnesota Council on Foundations acknowledges the excellent work of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and its Building Grantmaker Effectiveness and Accountability Initiative, and the national Council on Foundations and its work on Stewardship Principles. The work of both organizations contributed to the final recommendations of the MCF's Public Trust Task Force.