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.

As different as foundations can be from one another, they all share the need to know what works and, especially, what works well. The more foundations can show how their grants are making a difference, the more value they can bring to their communities.

To know what works, foundations must evaluate their grants. Evaluation has many benefits. It helps the foundation assess the quality or impact of funded programs, plan and implement new programs, make future grant decisions, and demonstrate accountability to the public trust.

Social media is an increasingly prevalent part of our world. Whether it’s on the news, sitting in traffic, or talking with colleagues, you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid mention of Facebook or Twitter. Is there a good way for your foundation to become involved?

Note to the Program Officer

The scope of the program officer job description has evolved. Where it was once primarily tactical—reviewing funding requests and developing requests for proposals—the program officer’s role more commonly includes strategic activities. Program officers must master three distinct areas: (1) developing and strengthening internal networksand relationships, (2) creating the foundation/giving program’s grantmaking strategy,and (3) engaging grantees and the community.

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.

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:

Under the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), any organization that is not required to file Form 990 because it is a “small public charity” will be required to submit an annual 990-N report to the IRS. The IRS posted FAQ's with additional information about the filing requirement. A “small public charity” is one that has annual gross receipts normally less than $50,000 (or $25,000 for tax years ending after December 31, 2007 and before December 31, 2010).

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.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) imposes requirements for determining the charitable deduction permitted for gifts of fractional interests in tangible personal property. 

What contributions are affected?

These requirements apply to contributions made after August 17, 2006.

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