Foundation basics

How much money do you need to start a private foundation?

There is no minimum required amount to start a private foundation. Many private foundations exist today with less than a $5,000 endowment. 

A better question is, how much money should you have to make starting a foundation a good idea? It would be very difficult to find a financial planner that would recommend starting a foundation with less than $1 million. This is due to the complicated nature of setting them up, the start-up cost, and the ongoing expense to keep them operating. Many advisors would suggest that a practical minimum starting endowment should be in the $2 to $5 million range.  A smaller starting endowment is more justifiable with a lean operating model, spartan operating expenses, and volunteers instead of employees.   

There is no upper limit to how much money you can put into a private foundation. Some founders pay careful attention to the tax benefits of foundations and manage their annual contributions to maximize tax planning goals. Donating a significant portion of your net worth into a foundation has both income tax and estate tax implications. If you are thinking of making large donations into a foundation it would be wise to consult with your tax advisor to review your specific situation.

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Foundation basics