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.

NGOsource, a project of the Council on Foundations and TechSoup Global, helps U.S. grantmakers streamline their international giving through easier equivalency determinations.

This list highlights some of the ways that private foundations and public charities (including community foundations) may engage in public policy without lobbying. Public charities have further flexibility and may engage in lobbying activities not described below.

1.Direct communications with legislators or their staff about a general issue of concern. To use this lobbying exception these direct communications may not either refer to specific legislation or legislative proposal, or if specific legislation or proposal is referenced, no view may be expressed on such legislation.  

Grantmakers can legally participate in the political process by following guidelines established by the IRS. Here are some tips.

IRS response to Council inquiry regarding private foundations engaging in advocacy and lobbying.

IRS document outlining lobbying issues of tax-exempt organizations.

An overview of the laws that govern what private foundations can and can't do regarding involvement in the public policy process.

This toolkit is designed for private foundations that want to educate and encourage their grantees about getting involved in civic and policy activities to increase organizational capacity and impact. While its primary focus is on the grantmaking activity of foundations, the toolkit also addresses rules and guidance for policy involvement by foundation officials acting on behalf of their foundations.

Sabbaticals are not too uncommon in the nonprofit world for foundation executives or senior management. It can be a useful time to reflect on past accomplishments, revitalize, and gain renewed inspiration for future work. Sabbaticals for board members likewise can have similar positive effects but should be approached with care.

When to Think Twice

Sample conflict of interest policies for staff and board members.

Sample conflict of interest policies from the Community Foundation of Switzerland County and Triangle Community Foundation.

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