What is a charitable Foundation recognized by the French State?

This status was defined by law on July 23, 1987: “A foundation is an act by which one or several individuals or legal entities agree to irrevocably allocate some assets, rights or resources for the purpose of carrying out not-for-profit and public interest works.” The “irrevocable allocation” guarantees the continued operation of the foundation, since these assets or resources cannot be withdrawn.

How is a Foundation created?

A foundation exists once it has been recognized as a public interest organization by a decree of the Council of State, and duly signed by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State.

What are a Foundation’s Requirements?

The main requirements are:

  • The purpose of the foundation must be in the public’s interest;
  • An initial endowment must provide sufficient revenues to enable the foundation to implement its intended actions;
  • The board of directors must include a group of founding members that will ensure that the foundation operates in the spirit of its stated mission, a group of members elected to serve based on their competence in the foundation’s field of action, and a group of mandatory members (among them the Secretary of State or his representative) who verify that the foundation complies with its obligations.

The size of the initial endowment determines the life of the foundation, since the revenue it generates are the foundation’s main resources. Unlike associations, foundations do not have paying members.

What are the specificities of a Foundation?

A foundation that is recognized as a public interest organization is authorized by law to receive the following donations:

  • Tax-deductible financial contributions
  • Tax-deductible donations
  • Estate tax-deductible donations

It can also call upon the public generosity.

A few number

There are currently 623 foundations that are recognized as public interest organizations (mid June 2012). This number does not include corporate foundations. Corporate foundations obey different rules and have a limited lifespan. Nor does it include foundations that are endowed with funds that are managed by a public interest foundation, such as the Fondation de France.

By way of comparison, there are currently about 2000 associations that are recognized as public interest organizations, and about one million declared associations.