Federal Partnerships

The History

In 2008, incoming Obama Administration officials signaled to foundations that the Administration would be seeking partnerships with the philanthropy sector to realize the President's social innovation agenda across the federal government. In response to this outreach, and with the positive response from the Council's membership at the time, the Council organized a formal public-philanthropic partnership initiative to provide a platform for coordinated responses to the government's entreaties. The goal then was to broaden the reach of philanthropy's investments by creating an avenue for the federal government to leverage its initiatives with the missions of foundations.  It was envisioned the Council would play a logical intermediary role in cultivating meaningful interactions between foundations and the national government.

That goal has remained durable across subsequent presidential administrations. In fact, the need for the public and the philanthropic sectors to work together has become more imperative as the nation experiences large scale national challenges such as the disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the frequency and scope of natural disasters and the impacts associated with the changing climate, and the increased wealth inequality in the United States. 

The positioning of the Council in this leadership role complements the Council's long standing work with Congress as a policy voice for foundations and is designed to ensure that philanthropy is strategically positioned with the Executive Branch departments and agencies as well. The focus of the work has been to create an organized pathway for foundations to take advantage of the unique confluence of opportunities and active interest in such partnerships across the government. The Council has been intentional in building a leadership "brand" in this policy arena as a gateway -- not a gatekeeper -- to connect foundations and government agencies seeking partnerships or engagements to support mutual goals.

What is the role of the Council?

  • To maintain active relationships with Executive Branch agencies and the White House officials.
  • To host a peer community of federal department and agency representatives with interests in developing strategic partnerships with the philanthropy sector
  • To identify emerging initiatives or policy development opportunities that might be of interest to foundations, and vice versa, to seek out federal connections for foundations’ priorities.
  • To identify and facilitate opportunities for Council members to meet with federal officials and to make introductions upon request. 

How can you get involved?

Contact Jenn Holcomb at jenn.holcomb@cof.org. 



Connect with Council Staff

Jenn Holcomb

Vice President, Government Affairs and Legal Resources

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