Volunteer Activities


Nonprofit organizations are an important part of every community. These groups include faith-based groups, parent associations, museums, homeless shelters, civil rights groups, colleges, and groups of many other kinds. All of them depend on volunteers, who serve as members of boards and communities, contribute their time to work projects, and raise funds for the organizations. As a Foundation we have a special respect for these groups. Nearly all of the Foundation's grants are made to such organizations. They do the work that our mission calls on us to support: improving the human condition.

Our general policy, therefore, is to encourage volunteering by Staff who are so disposed. (If you would like to get involved in volunteer work and would like help in finding opportunities, the People & Culture Departmentcan provide it.) At the same time, we want to be sure that organizations with which Staff are affiliated as volunteers have no unfair advantage in the competition for MacArthur grant support. It is important to avoid even the appearance of such an advantage.


Ordinarily such volunteer work will be done outside of your Foundation schedule–that is, on personal time. If your volunteer work conflicts from time to time with your Foundation schedule, the policy is that your supervisor makes the judgment whether an absence can be accommodated and how it can be made up through work at other times. If the time away from Foundation work is more than a few hours, your supervisor will let People & Culture know about the arrangement made with you.

Serving on a Board

If you decide to serve on the board of directors of an organization, we ask that you list that fact on the conflict-of-interest disclosure form that you are asked to complete by the Legal Department. Since the organization could approach MacArthur for funding, it is important that your membership on the board be disclosed. And if your work at MacArthur puts you in a position to influence a decision by the Foundation on a grant request from the organization, our policy is that you must tell your supervisor of your affiliation and play no role in the decision. If you are not sure what course to take, please ask for guidance from your supervisor, the Vice President of your area or a member of senior management.


As an employee of a major foundation you may confront especially delicate situations when you are asked to help with an organization's fundraising. You should feel free to provide such help, but our policy is that you should make it clear to the group that you are doing this as a personal activity and that you do not represent the Foundation or intend to approach the Foundation on behalf of the organization. If your name is listed on fundraising material, it is preferable that your MacArthur affiliation not be included, since it would strongly suggest that your presence indicates MacArthur Foundation endorsement.


The Foundation's policy is that ordinarily we do not buy tables at an organization's banquets or other events. Exceptions to this policy may be made by the Chicago Working Group (chaired by the Vice President and Secretary). Any request for an exception should be made through the appropriate Vice President to the Committee Chair. If, in your judgment, attending the event is a part of your duties as a MacArthur employee, then, with your supervisor's advance approval, you may buy a ticket and charge it to your department as you do other travel and entertainment expenses. You are free, of course, to attend any such event on your personal time and at your own expense.


Staff often accept invitations from organizations to speak. Our policy is that staff do not state positions on public issues as if the statement represented the position of the Foundation. We ask that in talking about the Foundation you base your remarks on the publicly stated mission and current guidelines. And if you are speaking at a fundraising event, it is important to make clear to the audience that you speak for yourself, not the Foundation. If you are uncertain about whether to agree to speak and for guidance on what to say regarding the Foundation, you should consult with the Vice President for Communications or the General Counsel.


Sometimes a Staff member is invited to serve on a civic task force or committee dealing with public policy issues. These are often excellent opportunities for useful community service, but they sometimes also have potential political meaning. If the subject to be addressed is related to the work of the Foundation, our policy is that the Staff member must have the President's approval before agreeing to serve.

Very specific rules apply to partisan political work and election campaigns. For information on activities of this kind, see the Foundation's Policy Regarding Participation in Campaigns and Other Political Activity.

On questions that are not covered in the policies, we ask you to bring them to your supervisor, who will in turn bring them to a Vice President, if necessary. (Service with philanthropy affinity groups, for example, presents a special case.) The overall point is this: use your own good judgment as you volunteer, keeping a clear line between your role as a Foundation employee and your role as a private citizen acting for the public good.

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