Foundation contributions can be raised in many ways to help meet the diverse needs of associations and their members. These contributions, for example, can help provide continuing education, scholarships, publications, research, infrastructure and even capital investments related to education and fundraising operations. The primary limitation is that charitable funds cannot fund programs that benefit association members exclusively. For example, your foundation can underwrite your association conference as long as the conference accepts nonmember registrations, or can sponsor an awards program as long as honorees don’t have to be members, etc.
Despite the “not for members only” limitation, philanthropic funds can enhance an association’s value proposition on many levels. Contributions can’t support absolutely every aspect of association operations – you can’t use them to market association membership, for instance — but the high-profile, emotionally compelling programs funded by philanthropy add to the glow of association membership and create a vibrant environment that helps draw and retain members. A great example is the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Annual Distinguished Lecturer series that, via member gifts to the SPE Foundation, presents 450 programs each year.