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.

Four stories of how philanthropy responded to national disasters. In each case, organized, strategic giving focused on long-term solutions to the challenges a community faced in disaster.

Moved by widely publicized human suffering and increased disaster aid requests, foundations and corporations are becoming more active in the disaster relief field. Grantmakers have a distinct role to play in disasters because of their ongoing relations with grantees, long-term perspective, flexibility and convening capacity.

In the aftermath of a disaster or in other emergency hardship situations, individuals, employers and corporations often are interested in providing assistance to victims through a charitable organization. The IRS provides a number of resources to help those involved in providing disaster relief through charities.
 

Moved by widely publicized human suffering and increased disaster aid requests, foundations and corporations are becoming more active in the disaster relief field. Grantmakers have a distinct role to play in disasters because of their ongoing relations with grantees, long-term perspective, flexibility and convening capacity.

Americans may disagree about various aspects of war, but there is broad support for helping the men and women who are fighting in wars and the families they have left behind. Dedicated assistance groups are working to provide aid to military personnel and their relatives. This article surveys the different purposes for which charitable grants can be made and discusses the role that grantmakers can play in those efforts.

Ideally, grantmakers will work with an existing charity or other well-established organization to provide disaster relief. But in the months after a disaster, it is not uncommon to see new charities cropping up in efforts to meet the immense and diverse needs of the affected communities. The problem is that it may take many months before a new organization is officially eligible to receive charitable contributions. Generally, an organization is not considered to be a public charity until it has a determination letter from the IRS stating that its public charity status has been recognized.

The private foundation executive director was concerned. Members of her board were going to make grants to promote public housing and economic development but none of the groups involved were the typical 501(c)(3)s to which the foundation normally made grants. One possibility seemed to be making a grant to a local government agency, but the agency had no IRS tax-exemption letter. Would the foundation have to exercise expenditure responsibility?

Public foundations, community foundations and corporate giving programs may establish a matching gifts program that will match disaster relief gifts made by employees or other donors living in the U.S. or anywhere in the world, provided the grantees are public charities based in the U.S., and gifts are not made from a donor advised fund.

Matching gifts from donor advised funds or private foundations can be done, but grantmakers will have to comply with the rules applicable to these giving vehicles.

Grants to Public Charities from a Public Charity

Unless from a donor-advised fund, disaster relief grants to domestic section 501(c) (3) public charities do not present special issues.

Grants to Public Charities from Private Foundations

For a private foundation, disaster relief grants to Section 501(c)(3) public charities based at home or abroad can be relatively straightforward, provided the grantee is not legally classified as a supporting organization.

If the grantee is a supporting organization, its IRS determination letter will indicate that it is classified under 509(a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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