Independent Foundations

Private foundations make grants based on charitable endowments. The endowment funds come from one or a small handful of sources -- an individual, a family or a corporation. Because of their endowments, they are focused primarily on grantmaking and generally do not raise funds or seek public financial support the way public charities (like community foundations) must.

Private independent foundations are distinct from private family or corporate foundations in that an independent foundation is not governed by the benefactor, the benefactor’s family or a corporation. Of the largest private foundations in the United States, most are independent foundations, although they may have begun as family foundations or were converted from corporate foundations. There is no official IRS or legal definition of independent foundations, so it is difficult to arrive at statistics that are fully representative of the field.

Below is everything on our site for independent foundations. You can use the filtering options on the right to narrow these results.

Directors & Officers liability insurance provides financial protection for a foundation and its directors, officers, employees, and volunteers in the event of a lawsuit.

For boards of directors, trustees and foundation managers, there are few areas of operation that cause more confusion and uncertainty than indemnification and the purchase of directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance. And it is no wonder. Mixing the often impenetrable statutory language of the Internal Revenue Code with the highly refined wording of insurance policies creates fertile ground for confusion. To make matters worse, the rules are not static. State laws change, Treasury regulations are revised and insurance policy language is frequently amended.

There's more to closing down a private foundation than packing up and turning off the utilities. Here are some questions, considerations, and IRS direction.

Under the rules applicable to private foundations, directors or trustees and staff members may be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the foundation's charitable activities. Such expenditures fall under the heading of administrative costs and will generally count toward the foundation's minimum distribution requirement, or payout.

Over the past decade or so, economies have become more global and the tools for communicating news from around the world have become more effective and timely in reporting global events via the internet, video and text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook, to name but a few of these tools. Foundations similarly are now faced with the challenges and opportunities of engaging an international community of stakeholders in their philanthropic endeavors. The relationships that a foundation forms with nonresidents and non-U.S.

The Stewardship Principles for Family Foundations encourage foundations to provide orientation and training for new board members and professional development for existing board members and staff. They also encourage planning for leadership continuity through activities that identify, educate and prepare the next generation of family members for future board service. Finally, they suggest that the foundation inform the broader family of the foundation's work and provide avenues for young family members to learn about and participate in the work of the foundation.

What do you do when a grantee—or potential grantee—asks someone on your board or staff to sit on their board? Does such a request constitute a conflict of interest? Are there times when such a situation can actually benefit one or both of the organizations involved?

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of sharing board members.

Many foundation board members wear more than one philanthropic hat. In addition to serving on the board of a grantmaker, they may also serve on the boards of grantseeking charities—or even on their staffs. Several issues may arise when board members find themselves on both sides of a grant request.

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