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A foundation is a non-governmental, non-profit organization which has a fund or endowment that it uses to aid charitable, educational, religious or other agencies serving the public good. It makes grants primarily to other non-profit organizations. Each foundation has its own specific priorities and interests which determines the types of programs it supports. These preferences, any program restrictions and requirements for applying will be included in the Foundation's guidelines. 

A Foundation is an entity that functions as a non-profit corporation or charitable trust. Its purpose is to make grants for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other charitable purpose. The history of foundations dates back to the medieval times when a wealthy patron would usually endow a monastery or other religious group in perpetuity. Although they are used for many other purposes today, most Foundations still have specific goals that direct who receives the grants.

There are several types of Foundations and they are usually distinguished by the source of their funds. The Private Foundation receives its funds from a single source. This may be an individual, a family, or even a Corporation. The Public Foundation receives its funding from multiple sources. This could be from groups of Corporations, or Government agencies, or even Private Foundations. The differences here mainly impact the tax exempt requires imposed on the Foundations by the Internal Revenue Service.


The total number of Foundations is rising steadily as the population continues to grow. In 1975, there were 21,887 Foundations making grants in the U.S. By 2009, that number had grown to 76,736. It is hard to pin point the exact reason behind this three fold increase in just thirty odd years. Some people attribute the growth to tax breaks that Corporations and individuals receive for funding Foundations, while others see it in a less cynical way as just the increasing sense of social responsibility of the wealthy.


Some foundations make their money available for:

  • specific purposes, e.g., building funds, operating support, equipment, seed money
  • specific populations, e.g., children, minorities, frail elderly, homeless
  • specific types of organizations, e.g., libraries, hospitals, universities, boy's clubs
  • specific geographic areas, e.g., city, a county, a state or a region. 


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