Private Operating Foundations

Operating foundations are private foundations that use the bulk of their income to provide charitable services or to run charitable programs of their own. They make few, if any, grants to outside organizations. To qualify as an operating foundation, specific rules, in addition to the applicable rules for private foundations, must be followed.

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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.

For many foundation managers, meeting community, regional, or even global needs is a primary aspect of everyday business. But when disaster strikes, foundations may find the need to quickly provide relief while accurately navigating a new set of grantmaking rules. These guidelines outline the basic legal considerations of a variety of popular giving options for managers of public and private foundations and corporate giving programs.

Since the terrorism attacks of September 11, 2001, grantmakers and other charitable organizations have become quite familiar with the work of the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the area of anti-terrorism concerns. OFAC has been one of the key U.S. government agencies seeking to shut down terrorism funding around the world and, in conducting that activity, has focused considerable attention on charities.

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