CMF Membership Criteria

The Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership association whose members are composed of organizations providing financial philanthropic support for charitable purposes in Michigan. The mission of CMF is to grow the impact of Michigan philanthropy. Any organization or individual fulfilling the criteria pertinent to its category (below) is eligible to apply for membership.

For more information on joining CMF, contact us at 616-842-7080.

CMF Member Principles

As leaders in Michigan philanthropy, members are asked to endorse these Guiding Principles that set forth ideals for each member to strive to achieve, and that demonstrate ethical and effective philanthropy.

  • Ethical

    We adhere to the highest standards of ethical behavior.

  • Transparent

    We conduct our work with openness and transparency and in full compliance with applicable laws.

  • Honoring Intent

    We maintain a clear understanding of our founders’ and donors’ vision and intent, and bridge the gap between past and present circumstances to uphold these values in our grantmaking.

  • Governing

    We demonstrate and encourage leadership with a governing board that is knowledgeable of and advocates for adherence to best practices in all philanthropic administrative roles.

  • Respectful

    We build constructive relationships based on mutual respect, candor, confidentiality and understanding with the public, applicants, grantees and donors.

  • Inclusive

    We harness the constructive power of difference through creating a culture that recognizes and values diversity within the philanthropic sector and by striving to offer great opportunities for all.

  • Learning

    We support continuous learning of trustees, staff and grantees. Together, we create a community that leverages lessons learned of impact from our philanthropic leadership activities.

  • Collective Voice

    We leverage our collective voice, collaborate and educate on critical issues and serve as influential partners with community and government leaders to protect and promote philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.

CMF Member Types

  • Community Foundations, Supporting Organizations and Donor-Advised Funds
  • Corporate Foundations
  • Corporate Giving Programs
  • Family Foundations
  • Independent Foundations
  • Public Charities
  • Individuals
  • Out-of-State
  • Private Foundations

    Private foundations are charitable organizations that do not qualify as public charities. In practice, they usually are nonprofits that were established with funds from a single source or specific sources, such as family or corporate money. Although contributions to private foundations technically are tax deductible, many of these nonprofits do not accept donations. Instead, private foundations usually invest their principal funding, and distribute the income from investments for charitable purposes. Many have endowments. The IRS recognizes two types of private foundations: private non-operating foundations and private operating foundations. Although the IRS uses a number of criteria to distinguish between the two, in practice, the key difference between a private non-operating foundation and a private operating foundation is how each distributes its income:

    • A private non-operating foundation grants money to other charitable organizations.
    • A private operating foundation distributes funds to its own programs that exist for charitable purposes.

    Both types of private foundations are subject to certain restrictions and requirements. For example, they must distribute a specific portion of their income for charitable purposes each year, and they cannot do business with their major contributors.

    For purposes of membership in CMF, an endowment is required, as well as a fully completed application form, including the name, address, and phone number of the contact person for the organization.

  • Public Foundations & Public Charities

    The term "public foundation" refers to a public charity that has financial philanthropic support as a primary purpose. Like other public charities, public foundations generally receive their funding from multiple unrelated donors, which may include private foundations, individuals, and government grants. Furthermore, they must continue to seek funding from diverse sources in order to retain their public charity status.

    A community foundation is generally organized and operated as a permanent collection of endowed funds for the long-term benefit of a defined geographic area. To qualify for membership in CMF, a community foundation must meet the following qualifications:

    • Have an endowment value of at least $1,000,000.
    • Have passed the National Standards process of the Council on Foundations.
    • Support a broad range of charitable activities within the specific geographic area of Michigan that it serves, such as a municipality or county.
    • Maintain an ongoing program to attract new endowment funds by seeking gifts and bequests from a wide range of potential donors in the community or area served.
    • Operate in a county of Michigan that is not served by an existing certified community foundation when the community foundation was incorporated or established.
    • Have an independent governing body not appointed by a single entity and is broadly representative of the public interest.
    • Provide evidence that within 6 months of incorporation or establishment, at least 1 part-time or full-time employee is maintained.
    • Conduct an annual independent financial review and an independent audit every third year if the endowment is less than $1 million; conduct an annual independent financial audit if the endowment is $1 million or more.

    In some cases, public charities are supported by other foundations, or “public foundation supporting organizations.” To be a supporting organization, a charity must meet one of three complex legal tests that assure, at a minimum, that the organization being supported has some influence over the actions of the supporting organization. Supporting organizations are distinguishable from donor-advised funds because they are distinct legal entities.

    A public foundation donor-advised fund is held by a public charity or community foundation where the donor, or a committee appointed by the donor, may recommend eligible charitable recipients for grants from the fund. The public charity or community foundation’s governing body must be free to accept or reject the recommendations.

    For purposes of membership in CMF, an endowment is required and a fully completed application form, including the name, address, and phone number of the contact person for the organization. Additional requirements for community foundations are listed above.

  • Corporate Giving Programs

    A corporate giving (direct giving) program is a philanthropic support program established and administered within a profit-making company. Gifts or grants go directly to charitable organizations from the corporation. A corporate giving program does not have a separate endowment; its expenses are planned as part of the company’s annual budgeting process and it is usually funded with pre-tax income.

    For purposes of membership in CMF, a fully completed application form is required, including the name, address, and phone number of the contact person for the organization.

  • Individual Members

    An individual member is one who supports the mission and work of CMF, has no current private foundation or donor-advised fund at a community foundation, and provides financial philanthropic support in an organized, systematic manner. Professional advisors and individuals interested in starting a private or public foundation are also invited to become CMF members under this category.

    For purposes of membership in CMF, a fully completed application form is required, including the name, address, and phone number of the contact person for the organization.

  • Out-of-State Members

    An out-of-state member is an endowed foundation or organization or an individual whose headquarters are located in a state other than Michigan. The primary function of out-of-state members is providing financial philanthropic support.

    For purposes of membership in CMF, a fully completed application form is required, including the name, address, and phone number of the contact person for the organization.