Public Foundations

Public foundations are grantmaking public charities that gain their funds from a variety of sources, which may include foundations, individuals, corporations, or public entities. Public foundations may engage in fundraising, and may seek broad public financial support. They may or may not have endowments. There is no legal definition of a public foundation, but most dedicate a significant portion of their annual budgets to grantmaking. Most community foundations are also grantmaking public charities.

Since public foundations may be defined in different ways, and there is no official IRS or legal definition of public foundations, it is difficult to arrive at statistics that are fully representative of the field.

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

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.

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.

Everything you need to know to stay out of trouble with third-party representatives.

Does hearing the sentence "Just make that grant check payable to my fiscal agent" stop you in your tracks? It should. If your potential grantees are washing your grant funds through an accommodating charity that has no control over your grant-funded activities, you should be worried.

Can a 501(c)(3) organization with a donor advised fund at a community foundation make a distribution to itself?

Individual taxpayers cannot take a charitable deduction for making a gift to an individual, even when channeled through a charitable institution, no matter how deserving of charity the recipient may be.

Dewey Diligence, a program officer at the Acme Community Foundation, was accustomed to having donor advisors call and request that contributions be made to churches and other religious institutions.

When donors to scholarship funds see the impact that their money can have on the life of a student, they are often inspired to contribute more. Sometimes they will add more to the principal of the fund so that future awardees can receive bigger scholarships or more scholarships can be awarded. Where investment losses have reduced the value of the scholarship fund and the amount available to pay out, donors may wish to round up the year’s grants.

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