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.

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.

In international grantmaking, private foundations often make grants to organizations (“Initial Grantees”) that, in turn, re-grant those funds to other non-public charity organizations or individuals (“Secondary Grantees”).

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.

Private foundations wishing to make a cross-border grant must ensure that:

  • The grant is clearly for a charitable purpose, and
  • The grant counts as a qualifying distribution for the purpose of meeting the foundation’s annual distribution requirement.

The easiest way for a private foundation to satisfy both of these requirements is to choose a grantee that is recognized by the IRS as a public charity.

Developed by the Treasury Guidelines Working Group of Charitable Sector Organizations and Advisors

Since the November 7, 2002 publication by the United States Department of the Treasury of its “Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S.-based Charities,”1 grantmakers have grappled with the problem of how to comply with their legal obligations under Executive Order 13224, the USA Patriot Act, and other laws and regulations that prohibit financial transactions with terrorists and their supporters.2 The Treasury Guidelines map out one route to compliance, but both grantmakers and operating charities have criticized them for failing

A plain-language guide to Executive Order 13224, the Patriot Act, embargoes and sanctions, IRS rules, Treasury Department voluntary guidelines, and USAID requirements.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, grantmakers are now being asked for a substantially higher level of due diligence regarding grantees than ever before. The good news is that providers of computer-based products and services are being responsive and beginning to offer grantmakers some practical and cost-effective solutions.

Prepared by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, this report provides a summary of the legal constraints in global grantmaking and draws on illustrative examples from the U.S., Europe, and other regions. It also outlines potential options to address these barriers.

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

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