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Topical Resource Lists

Foundations and Their Role in Philanthropy

This resource list is intended for anyone who wants to know more about foundations, their giving, and their role in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. It contains citations to selected works from the Foundation Center's bibliographic database, Catalog of Nonprofit Literature (CNL), and points to Internet Resources as well. For additional materials on the topic, search CNL with "foundations" in the Subject field (click here). Many of these items can be found at our five Library/Learning Centers.

Learn more by taking our free class on the subject.

World of Foundations

Brown, Melissa S., ed. Giving USA. Indianapolis, IN: AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, annual.

Statistical analysis of charitable contributions by corporations, foundations, individuals, and through bequests. Also provides data about charitable recipients.

Edie, John A. First Steps in Starting a Foundation. 5th ed. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2001.

Discusses in non-technical language the various types of organizations that are all generally labeled as foundations by the public, and the requirements for establishing, and regulations governing, each type.

Foundation Center; Collins, Sarah (ed.) Foundation Fundamentals. 8th ed. New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2008.

A primer designed to clarify the grantseeking process and to help grantseekers utilize information resources in locating appropriate funders.

Foundation Center; Ferris, James M. (ed.) Foundations and Public Policy: Leveraging Philanthropic Dollars, Knowledge, and Networks for Greater Impact. New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2009.

Examines the history, issues, and strategies related to foundation involvement in public policy, and provides a framework for grantmakers that are considering public policy engagement. Special chapters describe foundation efforts in several policy arenas, including school choice, wetlands preservation, child care, and health care insurance.

Freeman, David, John A. Edie, and Jane C. Nober. The Handbook on Private Foundations. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2005.

Provides practical information on most aspects of foundations, including history, reasons for creating a foundation, the grantmaking process, governance and administration, tax regulations and legal issues, and management of assets.

Orosz, Joel J. The Insider's Guide to Grantmaking: How Foundations Find, Fund, and Manage Effective Programs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2000.

Written primarily for program officers of foundations, the author provides a brief history on foundations, their structure, and their role in society.

Renz, Loren, and Steven A. Lawrence. Foundations Today Series. New York, NY: The Foundation Center, annual.

A three-part annual series that provides comprehensive statistical analysis of foundation growth and giving trends, incorporating a summary of data collected by the Foundation Center since 1980.

Setterberg, Fred et al. The Complete Guide to Grantmaking Basics: a Field Guide for Funders. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2008.

Written for staff from any type of foundation, part one covers the typical work and workday of a grantmaker, how to review grant proposals, conducting site visits and interviews, how to assess nonprofit budgets, communications with the board and others, and how to develop professionally. Part two focuses on ethics, collaborations, training staff, and continuing education. Part three deals with evaluation, foundation governance, social change grantmaking, and how to incorporate the foundation's mission and vision into everyday decisions.

Internet Resources

Visit the Foundation Center's GrantSpace site for the latest online resources on this topic in the Knowledge Base Article "What is a foundation?"

Family Foundations

Esposito, Virginia. The Power to Produce Wonders: the Value of Family in Philanthropy. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2010.

This report examines the value of family philanthropy to the family, to communities and to democracy. It provides perspectives of 300 family philanthropy leaders, identifies value-added characteristics of a family?s involvement in philanthropy, and presents a variety of challenges facing families engaged in philanthropy.

Esposito, Virginia (ed.) Splendid Legacy: The Guide to Creating Your Family Foundation. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2002.

The book is composed of contributions by various specialists on topics ranging from start-up to grantmaking, and is illustrated throughout with examples and lessons from those involved with family philanthropies. Some of the issues discussed include founder's vision, values and ethics; legal concerns; how to fund the foundation; governance; use of consultants; investments; establishing grantmaking priorities; and public relations.

Family Foundation Advisor. Kingston, NJ: Civic Research Institute, bimonthly.

This report letter is devoted exclusively to helping family foundation administrators and their professional advisors preserve foundation assets, avoid legal pitfalls and ensure that a foundation has a positive impact on the community it serves.

Foundation Center. Key Facts on Family Foundations. New York, NY: Foundation Center, annual.

Provides an analysis of annual grantmaker data from independent foundations with measurable donor or donor-family involvement. Includes statistics on giving, assets, funding areas, establishment dates, board size, and location.

McCoy, Jerry J. Family Foundation Handbook. Chicago, IL: CCH, annual.

A handbook for financial and legal advisors to family philanthropies, but also provides information and guidance of interest to laypeople. Covers basic legal and fiscal matters such as tax benefits, types of foundations, supporting organizations, the steps for creating a foundation, the role of charitable trusts, structure and governance of the philanthropy, operating restrictions, grantmaking, administration, and special issues.

Price, Susan Crites and Alice Buhl. Current Practices in Family Foundations: a Study in Support of the Pursuit of Excellence Assessment Process. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2010.

The first-ever survey of family foundation practices, intended as benchmarking information to aid foundations in improving their performance.

Internet Resources

National Center for Family Philanthropy

Corporate Foundations and Corporate Giving

Clark, Sylvia Corporate Giving: Options and Strategies. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2008.

Provides a step-by-step outline of the issues to consider in formalizing a corporate giving program. Outlines structural options for a giving program and provides analysis of the governance, expenses, legal issues, and positioning of each option. Describes some basic legal aspects of corporate giving and a framework for making grant decisions.

Corporate Giving Directory. Farmington Hills, MI: The Taft Group, annual.

Contains profiles of more than 1,000 corporate giving programs making contributions of at least $200,000 annually.

Hyatt, Susan A. Strategy for Good: Business Giving Strategies for the 21st Century. Denver, CO: GoodWorks, 2011.

Written for the small business owner, this book shows how to make a significant impact with giving and how to be strategic with nonprofit partnerships. Part I provides an overview of strategic business giving, Part II explains how to review past community involvement, inventory values, and select causes/partners/projects, and Part III discusses ways to give through charitable dollars, in-kind contributions, people, and commerce.

Foundation Center. Key Facts on Corporate Foundations. New York, NY: Foundation Center, annual.

This brief report provides estimates of annual giving by the nation's corporate foundations and presents data on actual giving for the past ten years. It includes analyses of corporate giving by subject focus, type of support, and region. A sidebar describes the growth of pharmaceutical foundations that provide in-kind giving to patients.

Foundation Center. National Directory of Corporate Giving. New York, NY: Foundation Center, annual.

Profiles over 4,000 corporations that make contributions to nonprofit organizations through corporate foundations or direct-giving programs. Entries provide a general description of the company and its activities with specific information on giving programs and foundations.

Matching Gift Register. Leesburg, VA: HEP Development Services, annual.

Presents data on companies and subsidiaries that match employee gifts to nonprofits, such as educational institutions and arts organizations. Includes contact information, minimum and maximum gift amount matched, gift ratios, eligibility, and links to forms and guidelines. With a subsidiary-parent company index.

Muirhead, Sophia A. Corporate Contributions Report. New York, NY: Conference Board, annual.

Summarizes the results of the Conference Board's annual survey of corporations.

Weeden, Curt. Smart Giving is Good Business: How Corporate Philanthropy Can Benefit Your Company and Society. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 2011.

In this book, the author shows how to strategically plan, manage and evaluate corporate contributions. Chapters cover the CEO's role, administration of company donations, the pros and cons of corporate foundations, donations of products and services, funding the United Way and alternatives, disaster responses, and communication of contributions commitments. Also offers benchmarks for determining if a business has a meaningful philanthropic program that fosters constructive corporate citizenship.

Internet Resources

Visit the Foundation Center's GrantSpace site for the latest online resources on this topic in the Knowledge Base Article "Where can I find information on corporate giving?"

Laws Regulating Foundations

Beggs, Sara and Miranda Perry. Legal Essentials for Small Foundations. Washington, DC: Association of Small Foundations. 2006.

Discusses legal issues related to grantmaking, operations, administration, investment, and termination.

Edie, John A. Corporate Giving and the Law: Steering Clear of Trouble. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2002.

Written primarily for corporate giving officers, this handbook identifies legal and regulatory problem areas. Provides a brief explanation of basic rules and recommends additional sources for more in-depth examination. Includes chapters on company foundations versus corporate giving programs, rules for charitable deductions, state and federal requirements, self dealing, domestic grants, international grants, and the use of legal counsel.

Edie, John A. Expenditure Responsibility Step By Step. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2002.

Outlines and discusses the five steps to fulfilling the Internal Revenue Service requirements for expenditure responsibility, and explains when funders need to enact this particular procedure in order to avoid tax penalty.

Edie, John A. and Kelly Shipp Simone. Family Foundations and the Law: Answers to Essential Questions. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2012.

Identifies legal issues of concern for family foundations and provides answers to commonly asked questions. Topics covered include starting a family foundation, rules for charitable deductions, excise tax of investment income, self-dealing, the 5 percent minimum payout requirement, business holdings, grants outside of the U.S., and related subjects.

Hopkins, Bruce R. and Jody Blazek. The Legal Answer Book for Private Foundations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.

Provides quick answers in FAQ format for officers, lawyers, and accountants of private foundations. The major topics covered include basic definitions, self-dealing, payout requirements, business holdings, investments, taxable expenditures, unrelated business activities, disclosure rules, and termination, among others.

Hopkins, Bruce R. Private Foundation Law Made Easy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

In this comprehensive, non-technical guidebook, Hopkins covers the basic principles of foundation law as well as new issues and emerging concepts. He distinguishes between private foundations and public charities and their subgroups. Chapters discuss legal concerns such as disqualified persons, tax rules, payout, prohibited expenditures, self-dealing, investments, business holdings, charitable giving, reporting requirements, alternatives to private foundations, governance, and trustee liability.

Hopkins, Bruce R. Private Foundations: Tax Law and Compliance. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

Intended as a desk reference for lawyers, accountants, and tax practitioners, this book covers federal tax laws related to the establishment of private foundations, disqualified persons, self-dealing, mandatory distributions, excess business holdings, investments, taxable expenditures, tax on investment income, unrelated business tax, tax compliance and administrative issues, termination, charitable giving rules, and the distinction between private foundations and public charities, and donor-advised funds.

Internet Resources

Council on Foundations – Legal Information

Includes sections on grantmaking, giving rules and regulations, management, finances and investments, starting and closing a foundation, and frequently asked legal questions pertaining to foundations.

Independent Sector Public Policy Program

This site is especially useful for keeping up with legislative and legal issues. Some information is available to members only.

National Center on Philanthropy and the Law – Nonprofit Legal Bibliography

Nonprofit Resource Center Legal & Regulatory Links

Includes lists of recommended books related to nonprofit legal issues, and links to numerous federal and state Web resources.

Donor-Advised Funds

Bolton, Peter. "Donor-Advised Funds Show Robust Growth, Chronicle Study Finds." Chronicle of Philanthropy (May 31 2012): p. 1, 7-8.

Results of a biennial survey of 126 large donor-advised funds (DAFs), which reveal a jump in assets that could help many charities. Assets of these DAFs rose 10 percent between 2007-2011, and philanthropists gave 17 percent more to charities from their DAFs in the same time frame. Provides assets and giving data of the ten largest DAFs.

Donor-Advised Fund Report. Jenkintown, PA: National Philanthropic Trust, 2011.

The report examines the donor-advised fund market using several metrics, including total assets, contributions received, grants paid, average fund size, total number of funds and payout rate. Based on most recent data.

Masterson, Ruth. Strategic Uses of Donor Advised Funds. Washington, DC: Association of Small Foundations, 2010.

This primer looks at how donor advised funds (DAFs) work and how small foundation managers can use them to further philanthropic goals. It explains how DAFs differ from private foundations, how DAFs and foundations can be used in tandem, and the steps to take when opening a DAF.

Internet Resources

Visit the Foundation Center's GrantSpace site for the latest online resources on this topic in the Knowledge Base Article "What are donor-advised funds and how can I research them?"


Billitteri, Thomas J. "Donors Big and Small Propelled Philanthropy in the 20th Century." Chronicle of Philanthropy (13 January 2000): p. 29-32.

A concise history of major events in the development of American philanthropy in the twentieth century, including growth of foundations and nonprofits, increases in fundraising, and tax and legal changes.

Brilliant, Eleanor L. Private Charity and Public Inquiry: A History of the Filer and Peterson Commissions. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2000.

Based on archival evidence, provides a history of the Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy (the Peterson Commission) and the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (the Filer Commission). The former existed between 1969-70, while the latter was active from 1973-77. Examines the historical context in which the commissions were established, the role of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the details of their hearings, their ultimate conclusions, and ongoing impacts.

Burlingame, Dwight F. (ed.) Philanthropy in America: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004.

More than 175 contributors provide essays on the people, organizations, and concepts of the nonprofit sector in the first and second volumes of this work. A third volume is a documentary history, organized in chronological order. Indexed.

Buxton, William J. (ed.) Patronizing the Public: American Philanthropy's Transformation of Culture, Communication, and the Humanities. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009.

Experts contribute chapters that explore the impact of American foundations in arts and culture with a focus on the period from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Fleishman, Joel L. The Foundation: A Great American Secret--How Private Wealth is Changing the World. New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2007.

Fleishman's study is based on interviews with senior officers or trustees at 100 of the largest U.S. foundations. He explains how foundations operate in practice, some of the motivations for donors, and the unique--often paradoxical--place that foundations have in American society.

Kiger, Joseph C. Philanthropic Foundations in the Twentieth Century. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

A comprehensive treatment of the development of foundations in modern times. Provides a narrative of the worldwide historical antecedents to the growth of modern foundations. Details the numerous investigations of the field, including the Walsh Commission in 1915, the Cox Committee in 1952, the Patman Investigation that began in 1961, and the Filer Commission, whose results were published in 1977. Discusses the expansion of the field, the characteristics of governance and personnel, supervision by governmental bodies, international activities, and the development of the third sector abroad.

Zunz, Oliver. Philanthropy in America: a History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.

The author offers an in-depth history of philanthropy in the United States, focusing on the convergence of big-money philanthropy and mass giving that sustained civil society initiatives in the 20th century. Zunz looks at the ways in which American philanthropy emerged as a means to foster independent investigation, problem solving, and the greater good; argues that American giving allowed the U.S. to export its ideals abroad after World War II; and examines federal tax policies that unified the nonprofit sector.

Print and Online Journals on Foundations and Philanthropy—A Selected Listing

Advancing Philanthropy. Alexandria, VA: Association of Fundraising Professionals, bimonthly.

Trends and issues impacting philanthropy and fundraising and new ideas and success stories.

Chronicle of Philanthropy. Washington, DC, biweekly.

Reports on issues and trends in the nonprofit sector, covering corporate and individual giving, foundation profiles, updates on fundraising campaigns, taxation, regulation, and management.

Corporate Philanthropy Report. San Francisco, CA: Wiley, monthly.

Articles on issues and trends, descriptions of current giving by companies and industries, and news items.

Nonprofit Online News

A compilation of current news in the nonprofit area, with added opinions and observations.

Nonprofit Quarterly. Boston, MA, quarterly.

Articles on diverse topics related to nonprofits.

NonProfit Times. Parsippany, NJ, bimonthly.

News articles focusing on trends, legislation, fundraising, and management of nonprofits.

Philanthropy. Washington, DC: Philanthropy Roundtable, bimonthly.

Articles directed to donors.

Philanthropy Journal Online

Daily updates of news for the nonprofit sector, including jobs.

Philanthropy News Digest

Online weekly summary of news about philanthropy, taken from the popular press.
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