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How do I start a grantmaking foundation?

If you intend to raise funds from the public, rather than starting out with an endowment of your own that you will use to make grants, you will almost certainly be forming a public charity rather than a private foundation. If you are unsure whether you will be starting a public charity or a private foundation, you may want to read our article, What is the difference between a private foundation and a public charity? Another article discusses information on establishing a public charity.

Although most people who use Foundation Center resources are grantseekers affiliated with public charities, occasionally people approach us with an interest in setting up their own grantmaking foundation. For specific information on this topic, you might want to contact the Council on Foundations, a national nonprofit membership association of grantmaking foundations and corporate givers.

There may be a regional association of grantmakers in your part of the country that has information on starting a foundation. See the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers' web site to look for such an association in your area.

The following membership organizations also provide services and information to grantmaking foundations:

You may also want to explore alternatives to starting your own foundation. For example, many community foundations help individuals set up donor-advised funds to support charitable causes. A donor-advised fund allows the individual to recommend which charitable organizations should receive donations or grants from the fund, while the community foundation assists with fund administration. An article from, Do Good with a Donor-Advised Fund, provides more information. You can search for a community foundation near you using the Community Foundation Locator on the Council on Foundations’ web site.

To learn about other options for setting up a fund to distribute charitable donations or grants, you may wish to consult a financial advisor or attorney.

Foundation Center can help you create and host a Web site for your foundation as part of our Foundation Websites services. There is also information on how you can speed up the process of grants reporting by participating in the Center's Electronic Grants Reporting program. Many other resources and services for grantmaking foundations can be found in the For Grantmakers section of the Center's site as well.

See more Knowledge Base articles related to this topic:

- What is a foundation?
- How do I start a nonprofit organization?
- What are the advantages/disadvantages of becoming a nonprofit organization?
- What resources are available for setting up a scholarship fund?

To learn more about this topic, selected resources below may also be helpful.

Please visit Foundation Center's Knowledge Services for useful tools and resources exclusively for grantmakers.

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