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.

The Council on Foundations, in collaboration with BoardSource, is proud to announce the publication of an easy-to-use guide for new foundation board members. This publication is designed as a basic guide for new foundation board members, providing an introduction to tools and knowledge essential in your first years of service on the board of a foundation.

Private foundations and public charities, including community foundations, may meet with legislators and legislative staff, but must use caution when considering topics to discuss with legislators. This document contains some general guidelines to consider prior to visiting with legislators.

The persistent scrutiny of nonprofit governance has prompted leaders at many types of organizations to take steps to assure that their own houses are in good legal and financial order. For private foundations, this checklist is a good place to start.

This checklist was prepared by Jane Kendall, president of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and a trustee of the Kathleen Price Bryan Family Fund at the time she wrote this. These tips come from more than 1,100 nonprofit leaders in the U.S. and four other countries. They were gleaned through in-depth interviews conducted as part of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Fellowship and through 20 focus groups held during the grassroots creation of the Center for Nonprofits. The introduction is by Leslie Lilly, vice president of the Foundation for the Mid South.

The Council on Foundations’ Foundation Management Series provides foundation boards and staff with the tools needed to benchmark their practices and operations against peers in the field. Containing data from the Council’s 2009 Foundation Management survey, the series consists of three reports: Board Composition and Compensation, Administrative and Investment Expenses, and Fiscal Oversight. Governance and Administrative Expenses: Key Findings provides a summary of survey data from all three reports.

This valuable resource guides foundations interested in becoming part of the national policy conversation and educating legislators about their impact in society. It offers advice on scheduling a meeting with a member of Congress; format options for those meetings; sample letter, fax, and e-mail formats; and more.

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