If my teen son and daughter travel with me to a seminar to learn about my work as a foundation trustee, may the foundation cover their expenses?

Private foundations may cover the registration and reasonable travel expenses for family members to attend conferences and education programs relevant to their current or future service, or to attend foundation retreats—if the family member is being trained for service on the foundation board or an advisory committee to the board.

Generally, private foundations cannot cover these expenses for family members who are not being prepared for service on the foundation board or an advisory committee.

(There is a way for the foundation to cover expenses for family members who will not be serving on the board or committees, by treating a travel reimbursement as part of the reasonable compensation paid to the board member or staff member whose spouse or child is being reimbursed.)

We recommend that foundations develop a written Policy on Reimbursement for Education, Training, and Retreats. Below are elements to consider when creating your policy:

  • Be clear that the foundation will cover registration and expenses for education conferences and foundation retreats for individual family members who are being trained and prepared for service to the foundation board or to ”x” advisory committee(s) of the board.
  • Eligibility in terms of age, or other restrictions if any
  • The purpose of the advisory committee(s) or board, and specific responsibilities of members
  • What kinds of conferences are approved for foundation-funded training—e.g., philanthropy conferences, issue-related conferences, workshops on leadership development or facilitation
  • What specifically the foundation will cover: partial registration, or full registration; what travel expenses; limits for hotel, meals, ground transportation
  • Be clear that the foundation will only cover coach airfare (not first class), and reasonable expenses.
  • How the process works—will the foundation pay for covered expenses upfront, or ask each individual to pay and be reimbursed?
  • Forms, documentation, and receipts needed for reimbursement
  • Be clear that the foundation will only pay for hotel, meals, and other travel expenses during the conference or retreat, and not during additional days; the individual must cover their own travel expenses beyond the duration of the conference or retreat.

This documentation will make your policy and process clear to all board and advisory committee members and to everyone in the family.

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