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Key Practical, Legal and Financial Considerations when Selecting the Right French Foundation Structure for You.

Once you have decided to take your philanthropic giving to the next level, one of the most important choices is the vehicle. That is to say, what type of foundation is right for you? While of course nothing is set in stone, this isn’t a choice to be made lightly.

Éléments pratiques, légales et financières clés pour choisir la bonne structure de fondation française.

Careful thought must be taken to ensure the structure chosen is best suited to your needs.

Every country will have its own set of education, health and tax policies, and it’s no different when looking at the legislation and taxation policies surrounding philanthropy.  In order to keep things simple for the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on France and private and family philanthropists.

Foundation and Fonds de Dotation Management Considerations

We'll start with some key points around daily management.

1. Time Commitment and Operational Involvement:

One of the key decisions is determining the level of time and involvement you're willing and able to commit. If you prefer a hands-on approach, operating your own programs and initiatives, both the fonds de dotation and the fondation reconnue d'utilité publique (FRUP) allow for staff. They are however fundamentally different in their construction and management, and their pros and cons should be weighed carefully. 


Conversely, if you seek a less active role, a fondation abritée (hosted foundation) might be preferable. This type of structure provides administrative support via the managing foundation, allowing you to focus primarily on strategic decision-making rather than day-to-day operations.


Should you be looking for something for your family business, a corporate foundation or a “foundation actionnaire” could both be options. Here again, they are two very different structures, and their pros and cons should be weighed carefully against your needs.

2. Staffing and Administrative Support:

Just as important, you’ll need to consider whether you intend to have dedicated staff to manage the foundations or fonds de dotations’ programs.  This is often the case in situations where you chose to operate your own initiatives. Most foundation structures in France offer this possibility, with the exception of fondations abritées, where you will need to have special dispensation from your managing foundation. While there have been examples of this in the past, it remains quite rare.

Foundation and Fonds de Dotation Tax and Legal Considerations

In France, all foundations, fonds de dotations and associations fall under the same legislation for management and taxation: “la loi du 1 juillet 1901”. That said, there are a total of eight different types of foundations that exist here, though not all are adapted to private philanthropy of course, but the choice remains large. What’s more, not all are equal in terms of fiscal and governance issues.

3. Tax Implications:

No-one gets into philanthropy for the tax write-offs. But a generous tax deduction system does help act as a leverage point to donating more, and to encourage those new to philanthropy to delve deeper and perhaps even get involved.


While all private and public foundations and fonds de dotations allow for tax receipts to be issued when a donation and/or a legacy gift is made, not all structures can be financed in the same way. This is important to understand from a point of view of how you will be funding your philanthropic vehicle. A fonds de dotation for example is not eligible to issue a tax-receipt for a donation made via the IFI (impôt sur la fortune immobilière) as an example.

4. Legal Implications and Governance:

This is where it gets even trickier. Again, even if all the different types of foundations and fonds de dotation fall under the same laws, their management and governance regulations are all very different. Each structure has its own set of rules in terms of minimum number of board members, minimum endowment size, financial management of that endowment, decision-making and so on.


It's thus important to know who will be involved, how the fund or foundation will be financed, how grantmaking will take place etc. Based on that and other factors, you will need to confirm what you are expected to put into place to operate within current legislation.

What does this mean for me?

France offers one of the most varied sectors in terms of types of foundations and fonds de dotations. It is also one of the most generous countries in terms of tax legislation.

With choice, comes responsibility, and knowing which is the best option for your goals and needs can sometimes be overwhelming, and may even require more than one structure.


Whether opting for a fonds de dotation, foundation abritée, corporate foundation, foundation actionnaire or even a FRUP, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons of each option and seek expert guidance to navigate the complex requirements effectively. By making informed decisions, you can establish a foundation or fonds de dotation that is aligned with your philanthropic and impact goals.


If you’d like to know more or discuss a potential project, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


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