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.

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.

Grants to Public Charities from a Public Charity

Unless from a donor-advised fund, disaster relief grants to domestic section 501(c) (3) public charities do not present special issues.

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.

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.

This list highlights some of the ways that private foundations and public charities (including community foundations) may engage in public policy without lobbying. Public charities have further flexibility and may engage in lobbying activities not described below.

1.Direct communications with legislators or their staff about a general issue of concern. To use this lobbying exception these direct communications may not either refer to specific legislation or legislative proposal, or if specific legislation or proposal is referenced, no view may be expressed on such legislation.  

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