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What is the difference between a charity and a foundation?

While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in everyday communications, the Internal Revenue Service defines a specific difference between public charities and private foundations. Both are charitable organizations and tax exempt under IRS Code section 501(c)(3). Private foundations typically have one major source of funding and generally make grants to other charitable organizations or to individuals. In contrast, public charities typically fund the operation of a program. Four aspects make up the broad array of public charities:
  • Churches, hospitals, medical research organizations
  • Organizations with an active fundraising program that receive money from the general public, governmental agencies, corporations, private foundations or other public charities
  • Receive income from its activities
  • Actively support one or more existing public charities.
For more information, check out this answer from the Foundation Center.

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