A private nonprofit organization can be used to do a lot of good for a variety of causes. Whether it is used to help an educational institution, advance religion, assist the elderly, or provide improvements to medical facilities, money from private nonprofit organizations has the potential to make a large difference in many scopes of life.

What is the Definition of a Public Nonprofit Organization vs. a Private Nonprofit Organization?

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is defined by the IRS as either a public charity or a private foundation. The difference is based on where the funding comes from as well as the type of activities it takes part in. The classification of your organization will determine how much oversight you receive from the IRS, along with the requirements of taxation.

A private nonprofit organization takes no part of any net earnings for the benefit of any founder, contributor, individual, or member. It has a voluntary board and its own accounting system. It will also practice non-discrimination when providing assistance.

What is a Public Charity?

A public charity is a type of charitable organization that receives public support and works actively to support other public charities. It can also be devoted to public safety testing. Almost all public charities will live on public contributions. To be deemed a public charity, a nonprofit organization has to meet requirements of section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Any donations to a public charity are fully tax-deductible. The public charity is what many people think of when they hear the word charity. The mission for each charity can range from assisting the homeless, education, or advancing religion. A church, university, or a hospital are all examples of public charities.

A public charity can be publicly supported, may get a large amount of its money from the public, or it can function to support an organization that is a public charity.

Nonprofit organizations were once required to go through a waiting period before being designated as a public charity by the IRS. Now, the IRS has an updated ruling that allows for immediate classification as a public charity if it can prove to the IRS that it will have enough public support.

What is a Private Foundation?

A private foundation is a type of charitable organization that does not meet the requirements for a public charity. They are typically nonprofits that are established with money from a single source or from certain sources, such as family members, instead of getting money from the public.

The money raised and used in a private foundation is managed by its own board of directors or trustees. It will also rely on investments from outside resources. Over half of the board has to be unable to get paid as an employee of the institution. In other words, anyone working on the foundation may not be employed by the foundation itself and receive compensation. The IRS will classify all nonprofit organizations as private foundations unless they can prove  they meet the requirements to be considered public.

While the funds that are provided to a private foundation can be deducted from taxes, most will not accept donations. A private foundation will typically invest principal funding and then payout the income from those investments and use them for charity work.

Private foundations often have endowments. These funds are used to:

·       Make grants

·       Provide gifts to other nonprofits

·       Assist educational, religious, and charitable causes

While there is a number of different criteria to help distinguish between the different types of foundations, the IRS states that the main difference between them is how they distribute income.

A private foundation that is not operational will grant money to other charitable organizations. This is very common for a private foundation. They will not provide direct assistance for charitable programs.

A private foundation that is operational will distribute money to help pay for its own charitable programs that are used for different purposes and services.  Each private foundation will be subject to some specific requirements and restrictions.

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