Foundation Lifecycle

The Council on Foundations is a membership organization that supports grantmakers in a variety of ways, including providing best practices in foundation management. The Council provides basic information to help you understand the general steps necessary to start a foundation, but does not provide legal or technical assistance for starting a foundation. 

Once your foundation has been established, we would welcome your organization as a member, and provide access to resources to help with ongoing management.  Whether on a shorter or longer time arc, many foundations go through the following life cycle: getting started; ongoing operations; and spend down. 

With guidance from its board, foundations must decide whether to operate in perpetuity, or to wind down operations.  The decision to spend down may be a difficult one, and is often a decision made by its founder or board, based on inputs ranging from donor intent to declining endowments. 

The Council on Foundations has created a host of resources to guide you through each step of the foundation life cycle, and can also provide information from its Knowledge Center and Legal departments to help inform your decisions.

In-Depth knowledge on Foundation Lifecycle

Many people want to start foundations, but few start out knowing exactly what sort of organization they are going to create. The purpose of this e-book is to help potential donors understand the many different entities that are commonly referred to as foundations and to provide an understanding of the legal framework necessary to establish a foundation.

This chapter of Mastering Foundation Law is intended to examine and explain those common legal characteristics shared by community foundations and to provide a comprehensive legal overview of the rules and regulations that govern community foundations. Federal tax law will be the focus although certain sections will discuss state-specific law. You will also find some comparisons between community foundations and other organizations such as private foundations.