The only substantive difference between the two is the manner in which funds are acquired. A private foundation is a nonprofit charitable entity, which is generally created by a single benefactor, usually an individual or business, and the funds are typically derived from that single source. A public charity uses publicly-collected funds to directly support its initiatives.

Every U.S. and foreign charity that qualifies under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code as tax-exempt is considered a private foundation unless it demonstrates to the IRS that it falls into another category. Broadly speaking, organizations that are not “private foundations” are considered “public charities.”

For more on the difference between the two, check out this resource from on the operational requirements for private foundations and public charities.

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