Today, a free, interactive training tool is available from Learn Foundation Law to help private foundation staff navigate the rules and regulations surrounding interactions with government officials. These regulations include the IRS tax rules and federal, state and local ethics rules that prevent government officials from accepting inappropriate gifts or benefits from private parties, including foundations. The training is designed to aid private foundation staff in spotting issues that require special consideration before working with government officials and contains valuable resources, including a checklist and summaries of various rules.

“Foundation staff have many important reasons for working with government officials on a nonpartisan basis—to provide information, share ideas and draw on diverse viewpoints to ensure their own grantmaking serves the public good,” said Hewlett Foundation Associate General Counsel Kristy Tsadick. “But the rules governing those interactions can be complicated to apply. This new course provides an excellent overview of both the tax and ethics rules involved to help foundation staff stay in compliance with the law.”

The training also offers real-life scenarios when a private foundation staff member might interact with a government employee, including conferences, meetings and project site visits. Employment issues are also addressed, including guidelines for when a foundation considers hiring a former government official.

In 2010, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation collaborated to create Learn Foundation Law, a series of free, online trainings on legal issues that private foundation staff must understand. Each of the animated training modules take users between 30 and 90 minutes to complete and feature “Maya,” an animated foundation program officer who guides participants through each training session.

The Working with Government Officials module—and all of the other legal training modules available in the Learn Foundation Law series—supplement existing in-person workshops and training that legal counsel at private foundations provide to staff. Other training topics include Program-Related Investment Rules for Private FoundationsAdvocacy and Lobbying Rules for Private FoundationsExpenditure Responsibility Rules for Private Foundations and Electioneering Rules for Private Foundations and Public Charities. All of these trainings, and a supplemental toolkit to promote them within private foundations, are available at:


The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helps people build measurably better lives. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development and population, performing arts, philanthropy, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationworks to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people — especially those with the fewest resources — have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. 

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation is a private family foundation created in 1964 by David Packard (1912–1996), cofounder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, and Lucile Salter Packard (1914–1987). The Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the following program areas: Conservation and Science; Population and Reproductive Health; and Children, Families, and Communities. Foundation grantmaking includes support for a wide variety of activities including direct services, research and policy development, and public information and education.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit or follow @MooreFound.


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