Legal Requirements to Form a Foundation in Someone's Name

Written by cynthia gomez
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Legal Requirements to Form a Foundation in Someone's Name
Parents sometimes start family foundations to encourage philanthropy in their children. (family image by Mat Hayward from

Private foundations are organisations that are exempt from federal taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code. They tend to receive most of their support from members of one family or from a small number of individuals. Foundations make grants to other organisations to use for charitable, educational and religious purposes.

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Secure the express permission of the person you are naming the foundation after in writing. While this is not a legal requirement, doing so will keep you out of court in the event that the person after whom you name your foundation decides to sue. An attorney can help you draft a simple agreement that you then can get the person to sign. Clearly explain to him that you will use his name in any materials your foundation publishes and distributes later on; she should be comfortable with her name being used not only right now, but also well into the future.


All foundations have bylaws or charters. Your bylaws or charter should state why the foundation was named after a specific person and whether there are any specific duties required of that person. For instance, many foundations are named after the person who puts up the bulk of the money required to start the organisations. You may, however, want to spell out whether additional, regularly scheduled gifts will be required of this person. If various individuals are contributing equal amounts, there should be another reason for naming the foundation after a single of those individuals. In such cases, it may be wiser to find a neutral name for your foundation, not the name of a person.


Go through all the documents completed to incorporate your foundation and file for non-profit status with the Internal Revenue Service to make sure they list the exact same foundation name. For instance, if you name your foundation the John T. Doe Foundation, make sure that all foundation-related documents refer to the John T. Doe Foundation, not the John Doe Foundation or the J.T. Doe Foundation. This could hold up the incorporation or non-profit filing process.

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