Starting a Private Foundation
Private foundations play an important role in communities across the country—filling the shelves of food pantries, employing directors of boys and girls clubs, ensuring the rights of minorities, and much more. Opportunities abound for you to make a difference; just be sure to get started on the right path, including figuring out the giving vehicle that’s right for you.
Determine if a private foundation is right for you
Know the field
- Nonprofit Sector 101
- What’s the difference between a public charity and a private foundation?
- What if I want to start a public charity?
Consider the pros and cons of the options
More about private foundations
- Life Cycle of a Public Charity/Private Foundation, from the IRS
- Types of Grantmakers, from the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
Start your private foundation with ASF resources
- Download How to Start a Private Foundation, a FREE primer for an “A to Z” overview on starting a private foundation.
- Purchase our most comprehensive resources for starting up.
- Search the Professional Directory of Foundation Advisors for an accountant, attorney, investment specialist, consultant, or resource organization.
- Get an overview of basic legal concepts for foundation managers (PDF)
- Watch Stories of Getting Started — two small foundations reflect on entering the world of foundation giving.
A few things you must do in your foundation’s first or second year — and ASF primers to help
- Hold board meetings and keep minutes as required by your state.
See Effective Governance for Unstaffed Foundations
- Avoid self-dealing transactions.
See How to Avoid Self-Dealing
- Follow state investment-related rules — and be prudent investors.
See Getting It Done: The Who and How of Small Foundation Investing
- File an accurate 990-PF with the IRS and your state.
See Filing the Form 990-PF
Become a member of the nation’s largest network for small foundations. You’ll get exclusive access to benefits such as Directors and Officers Liability Insurance, software discounts, peer-to-peer learning, and much more. Join now
“Having a clear mission and guidelines that address our areas of funding and the process in which to apply... saves time, helps us to stay focused, and keeps us in line with the founder's vision.”