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.

Both the board and CEO advance each foundation’s mission. They hold different responsibilities, but they need to support and balance each other.

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.

Board Composition and Compensation

Board Composition and Compensation offers findings on foundation policies regarding board compensation and diversity.

U.S. private foundations are increasingly involved in international grantmaking. One way for a private foundation to give overseas is to make grants directly to foreign charities. Many U.S. private foundations, however, may want to consider giving overseas indirectly through a "Friends of" organization.

The Council on Foundations defines “international grantmaking” to include grants made by U.S. foundations and corporations to overseas recipients as well as grants made to U.S.-based organizations operating international programs. This includes grants made toward activities wholly within the Unites States that have significant international purpose and impact.

U.S. foundations and corporations interested in international grantmaking have several options:

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) has introduced filing requirements for split-interest trusts such as charitable remainder trusts and pooled income funds.

Which returns are affected?

These requirements apply to returns for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2006.

Under the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), the rules for public disclosure of the Form 990-T by public charities and private foundations became identical to those for Form 990.

Which forms are affected?

Any Form 990-T filed after August 17, 2006.

Private foundations and donor advised funds must follow special rules when making grants to certain supporting organizations.

Why is it important to determine if a public charity grantee is a supporting organization?

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.

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?  

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