Private 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 foundation” is the umbrella term that includes corporate, independent, family, and operating foundations.  As of 2011, there were 73,764 private foundations in the United States (Foundation Center, 2011).  

In 2011, private foundations held more than $604 billion in assets and gave away more than $45 billion (Foundation Center, 2011).  

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

The Pension Protection Act (PPA) was signed into law by President Bush on August 17, 2006. The PPA was designed to improve pension plan funding requirements of employers, as well as 401(k), IRA and other retirement plans. The PPA also included numerous provisions that affect charitable giving.

The legal and tax implications for community foundations accepting donations from private foundations, and qualifying distributions of taxable expenditures. Additional insight into converting a private foundation into a supporting organization of a community foundation.

Lawyers rarely tell foundation managers, "Relax, don’t worry so much!" But in the case of "tipping," that’s been our advice for more than 10 years. What is the so-called "tipping problem" and why are so many foundations (still) so worried about it?  

Good relationships between grantmakers and grantees promote more effective philanthropy. But there's nothing that can mess up a good partnership faster than an overzealous lawyer. In seeking to protect their foundation clients, lawyers can sometimes impose excessive requirements on grantees, forcing them to spend unnecessary time and money. While grantmakers should always pay attention to their lawyers' advice, here are some legal recommendations you might want to question.

Requiring grantees to "re-certify" tax-exempt status

After September 11, 2001, many grantmakers and other charitable organizations that were not previously familiar with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), learned of its existence. As one of the key U.S. government agencies seeking to shut down terrorism funding around the world, OFAC has focused attention on charities as one mechanism for providing financial support to terrorists. As a result, grantmakers and others have dedicated more time and effort to OFAC compliance.

In an effort to ensure that charitable resources are used exclusively for charitable purposes and not used to support terrorist activity, organizations may choose to adopt practices in addition to those explicitly required by law. Among the practices that some charities choose to adopt is including language in their grant agreements requiring grantees to certify that they do not and will not knowingly provide material support to any individual or entity furthering terrorist activities.

A tool to help private foundations determine when to use expenditure responsibility for grants to public charities.

Aligning private foundation grantmaking procedures with PPA requirements

Can we back out of a multiyear commitment we made in a prior year because our foundation’s assets have declined?

The answer in many cases is “no.” That is, unless your grantee is willing to release your foundation from its obligation.

Generally, an unconditional, multiyear grant is considered a pledge to the grantee organization. In many states, a pledge is a legally binding obligation. Therefore, your grantee could seek to take you to court should you stop paying the grant.

Generally, there is no legal restriction against making grants to churches, synagogues, mosques or other religious institutions. But there are some things foundations interested in such grantmaking should know.

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