How to Create Private Foundation with Crypto: A Crypto Attorney’s Overview

E-Commerce Lawyer

On this calm, rain-drenched day on Amelia Island, I am diving into the intricacies of a rapidly evolving area in my profession – the revolutionary fusion of cryptocurrencies and philanthropy. My name is John Montague, an attorney with a wealth of knowledge and experience in financial law, particularly in the realms of digital assets and cryptocurrency.

My educational journey, which began at Stetson University and culminated in a J.D. from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law, paved the way for my career. This path eventually led me back to the University of Florida as a visiting professor, where I imparted my knowledge in Entrepreneurial Law classes.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with several crypto foundations, helping them navigate the intricate maze of securities regulation and exchange compliance. A standout example of these collaborations is my work with the Uniswap Foundation, where I was instrumental in setting up the foundation and provided crucial regulatory guidance.

Outside of my professional engagements, I find personal fulfillment in participating in quadratic voting on Gitcoin, a blockchain-based platform that incentivizes open-source development. This system, which promotes more democratic decision-making, resonates with my belief in a decentralized future.

Now, more than ever, we are witnessing the growing integration of cryptocurrencies into private foundations. The potential for increased control, tax benefits, and a widened donor base makes this an attractive prospect. But it’s vital to approach this frontier with a clear understanding of its complexities.

In this comprehensive guide on “how to create a private foundation crypto”, I will walk you through the process of creating a crypto-focused private foundation. Together, we will explore the benefits, tackle the obstacles, and equip you with the information you need to make informed decisions in your philanthropic journey. Let’s dive in and unravel the fascinating world of crypto philanthropy.

Short Summary

  • Cryptocurrency can provide private foundations with increased tax incentives, a larger donor base and greater control over funds.
  • Careful consideration of regulatory compliance, volatility & risk management, and security & fraud prevention is essential for successful crypto philanthropy.
  • Experienced advisors are necessary to evaluate the benefits and risks associated with integrating cryptocurrency into existing private foundations.

Understanding Private Foundations and Cryptocurrency

Technology lawyer

Private foundations are evolving, integrating tech and cryptocurrencies into their operations and funding methods. This transformation not only opens up a new avenue for donations but also enables these foundations to stay relevant and appeal to a broader donor base that includes the tech-savvy and crypto-friendly population.

There are numerous examples of foundations in tech and cryptocurrencies that have embraced this transition. For instance, the Linux Foundation is a tech-focused non-profit consortium that has been a champion of open source projects. Its impact in the tech industry is massive, supporting some of the world’s most critical open source technologies.

In the world of cryptocurrencies, there are a number of foundations that play pivotal roles. The Ethereum Foundation is one such example. It supports the Ethereum platform, a decentralized, open-source blockchain featuring smart contract functionality. Ethereum is the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, after Bitcoin, and has spawned an entire ecosystem of decentralized applications.

Another example in the crypto space is the Uniswap Foundation, a decentralized exchange protocol built on the Ethereum blockchain. The foundation has played a significant role in shaping the trajectory of decentralized finance (DeFi), offering a censorship-resistant way for individuals to exchange Ethereum-based tokens directly with one another.

Integrating cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Uniswap into the operations of a private foundation can offer numerous benefits, such as expanding the potential donor base, streamlining transactions, and fostering innovation. However, it is essential to be aware of the regulatory and operational complexities that come with cryptocurrencies and have expert guidance to navigate these challenges effectively.

Some other examples of crypto or related open source technology foundations include the following:

The Stellar Development Foundation is another exemplary organization in the cryptocurrency sector. It is dedicated to developing and promoting Stellar, an open-source network for currencies and payments. Stellar makes it possible to create, send, and trade digital representations of all forms of money—dollars, pesos, bitcoin, and more.

There’s also the Cardano Foundation, an independent body based in Switzerland, that supervises the development of Cardano, a blockchain platform for smart contracts. Cardano’s ADA token is one of the largest cryptocurrencies by market cap, and the foundation plays a crucial role in promoting the platform and driving its adoption.

On the tech side, the Apache Software Foundation provides support for the Apache community of open-source software projects. Apache’s projects are characterized by a collaborative, consensus-based development process and an open and pragmatic software license.

The Python Software Foundation is a non-profit organization devoted to the Python programming language. The foundation’s mission is to promote, protect, and advance the Python programming language and to support and facilitate the growth of a diverse and international community of Python programmers.

What are private foundations?

Private foundations represent enduring platforms for philanthropy, enabling donors to establish a significant legacy that can transcend generations. By incorporating heirs and family members into the foundation’s operations and grantmaking process, a sustainable pipeline for charitable giving is created, promising continued support for benevolent organizations far into the future.

In the evolving world of finance, cryptocurrencies are increasingly being integrated into the fabric of private foundations, making them even more effective tools for carrying out their philanthropic missions. With the advent of digital currencies, foundations can extend their reach globally, quickly and efficiently moving funds across borders to support initiatives anywhere in the world.

Donors often play a vital role in the day-to-day operations of these foundations. Their responsibilities can range from staffing and managing investments to making key decisions about grantmaking. Additionally, ensuring compliance with regulatory reporting requirements, such as filing annual tax returns, falls within the purview of these donors.

Of utmost importance is maintaining alignment with the foundation’s core mission, which can encompass a wide array of philanthropic objectives – from religious, educational, and scientific endeavors to literary, humanitarian, and other approved goals. As we see the increasing convergence of cryptocurrencies with these foundations, their mission becomes even more vital. The blockchain technologies underlying cryptocurrencies can provide increased transparency and accountability, ensuring donations are used in a manner that aligns with the donors’ intent.

The integration of cryptocurrencies also offers new opportunities for these foundations. For instance, they can tap into the burgeoning crypto-wealthy class for donations or use crypto’s inherent features to enhance their operations. However, it’s important to remember that this is a rapidly developing and complex field, requiring expert guidance and understanding of both the regulatory landscape and the technology involved.

Ultimately, private foundations serve as a testament to the lasting impact of charitable giving, and with the inclusion of cryptocurrencies, they are well-equipped to face the challenges of an increasingly digital future.

The process of incorporating cryptocurrencies into a private foundation’s operations adds an additional layer of complexity, given the unique nature of these digital assets. The regulatory landscape for cryptocurrencies continues to evolve, and the guidelines for their use within charitable organizations are still being refined. Therefore, a comprehensive understanding of both traditional foundation management and the intricacies of cryptocurrency is necessary.

Private foundations are required to meet specific reporting obligations, including the annual filing of IRS Form 990-PF, known as the Return of Private Foundation. This document offers a detailed snapshot of the foundation’s financial activities over the course of the fiscal year. Foundations are also required to distribute at least 5% of their assets annually in the form of charitable grants, which serves to ensure a consistent flow of support to their chosen causes.

When it comes to crypto-oriented private foundations, the transparency and traceability of blockchain technology can play a significant role in achieving these compliance requirements. The ability to track and record transactions on the blockchain can simplify the reporting process and make it easier to demonstrate that the foundation is meeting its mandatory minimum distribution of assets.

However, this integration of cutting-edge technology into longstanding philanthropic structures also requires an adept navigation of both worlds. That’s why a deep understanding of the evolving crypto landscape, along with a firm grasp on the legal underpinnings of foundation management, is critical in marrying these two spheres successfully.

Indeed, the tax landscape for private foundations extends beyond the basic requirement of filing IRS Form 990-PF. A range of elections and provisions within the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) can affect a foundation’s tax obligations and influence how it conducts its operations.

One such provision is IRC Section 4942(j)(3), which allows private non-operating foundations to qualify as ‘pass-through’ foundations. To be eligible, these foundations must distribute all contributions they receive (less reasonable administrative expenses) within 2.5 months following the tax year in which the contributions were received. Making this election can offer some advantages, such as reduced excise tax rates.

Another key provision is IRC Section 4947(a)(1), which applies to charitable trusts. These are trusts that aren’t exempt from tax under IRC 501(a), but all of their unexpired interests are devoted to charitable purposes. Such trusts have to meet the same distribution, reporting, and operational requirements as private foundations, and they may apply to be treated as exempt from tax.

IRC Section 509(a)(3) pertains to ‘supporting organizations’ that provide support to public charities. If a foundation is classified under this provision, it isn’t classified as a private foundation and is exempt from many restrictions and taxes that private foundations are subjected to.

The use of cryptocurrencies by private foundations brings these tax considerations into a new light. For instance, the treatment of cryptocurrency donations and grants, which can fluctuate in value, can present unique tax considerations. Careful planning and expert guidance are necessary to navigate these issues.

Regarding Swiss Foundations, they are governed by Swiss law, under which they are not subject to income or capital taxes, provided they pursue public benefit purposes. However, they must pay a reduced wealth tax on real estate located in Switzerland. Also, while they are generally exempt from taxes, Swiss foundations must file an annual tax return. As Switzerland is a leading hub for blockchain and cryptocurrency companies, it is becoming an increasingly important jurisdiction for crypto-related foundations.

Regarding tax elections, there are also the following exempt organizations:

501(c)(3) Organizations: This designation applies to organizations that operate for religious, educational, charitable, scientific, or literary purposes. As already mentioned, donations to these organizations are generally tax-deductible. As such, crypto protocols with a mission to educate the public about blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies, or the principles of decentralized finance (DeFi) could qualify for this status. It could be used to foster development through grants or to fund initiatives aimed at promoting blockchain education, digital rights, privacy, or open-source development.

501(c)(4) Organizations: These are “social welfare organizations,” which include civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare. These organizations might engage in lobbying activities, which is limited for 501(c)(3) organizations. Crypto protocols or organizations aiming to shape the legal and regulatory environment surrounding blockchain and cryptocurrencies might find this classification more suitable. They could advocate for favorable laws and regulations, and work towards the broader acceptance and understanding of cryptocurrencies and blockchain.

501(c)(5) Organizations: This designation applies to labor, agricultural, or horticultural organizations. While at first glance this might not seem directly relevant to crypto protocols, it could apply if, for instance, a protocol or organization is created with the intent to improve working conditions, increase wages, or better the quality of life for workers within the crypto or tech industry more broadly.

In all cases, accepting cryptocurrency donations could provide new funding opportunities, but also brings specific compliance requirements and potential challenges, especially considering the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies. Understanding these implications and aligning them with the mission of the crypto protocol is key. By adopting these statuses, crypto protocols can work towards their goals while ensuring tax efficiency and regulatory compliance. However, they must also be prepared to fulfill the stringent requirements that come with maintaining these tax-exempt statuses.

The role of cryptocurrency in private foundations

Cryptocurrency can bring several advantages to private foundations. By utilizing crypto for funding, foundations can benefit from tax incentives, expand their donor base, and gain better control over their funds. For example, donating appreciated cryptocurrency to a private foundation may help donors avoid capital gains tax while still claiming a tax deduction.

However, integrating cryptocurrency into a private foundation also comes with its share of challenges and considerations. Foundations need to assess regulatory compliance, manage volatility and risk, and ensure security and fraud prevention, especially if they are considering using a donor advised fund.

With the right strategies and safeguards in place, a crypto-focused private foundation can successfully navigate these challenges and enjoy the benefits of this innovative approach to philanthropy.

Steps to Create a Crypto-Focused Private Foundation

Creating a crypto-focused private foundation involves several crucial steps, from defining the foundation’s purpose to setting up a cryptocurrency wallet and donation platform. By following a clear, well-structured process, you can successfully establish a private foundation that leverages the benefits of cryptocurrency for philanthropic purposes.

Throughout this process, it is essential to engage a legal team and financial advisors for initial planning, as well as ongoing compliance, recordkeeping, and tax returns. These professionals can offer valuable guidance and support, ensuring that your private foundation is set up correctly and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Defining the foundation’s purpose

The first step in establishing a private foundation is defining its purpose. This involves creating a mission statement and establishing grantmaking guidelines that align with the philanthropic objectives of the foundation’s creator. A clearly defined purpose is essential for ensuring that the foundation’s resources are allocated appropriately and for facilitating the foundation’s eligibility for tax-exempt status.

Once the purpose has been defined, the foundation must submit any supplementary paperwork necessary to acquire tax-exempt status. This may include providing information about the fair market value of the foundation’s assets and ensuring that the organization is operated exclusively for charitable purposes.

Drafting bylaws and incorporating

After defining the foundation’s purpose, the next step is to draft bylaws and incorporate the foundation. A legal team can help with this process, ensuring that the bylaws encompass key elements such as the organization’s name, purpose, membership, meeting guidelines, officers, indemnification of board members, books and records, amendments, and dissolution. The bylaws should also address any specific cryptocurrency-related provisions, such as the foundation’s policies on accepting and managing crypto donations.

Once the bylaws have been drafted, the foundation must be incorporated as a legal entity, either as a charitable trust or a nonprofit corporation, and submit the relevant documents to the state. The chosen structure must comply with the Internal Revenue Code to maintain the foundation’s tax-exempt status.

Obtaining tax-exempt status

To obtain tax-exempt status, a private foundation must submit an application for recognition of exemption, known as Form 1023, to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This process may involve providing information about the fair market value of the foundation’s assets and demonstrating that the foundation is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes, which may qualify for a charitable income tax deduction. Additionally, it is important for the foundation to file annual tax returns to maintain its tax-exempt status and take advantage of tax deductions.

Once the application has been approved, the foundation will be granted tax-exempt status, allowing it to enjoy the various tax benefits associated with being a private foundation.

Setting up a cryptocurrency wallet and donation platform

Once the foundation has been established and granted tax-exempt status, the next step is to set up a cryptocurrency wallet and donation platform. This involves researching and selecting a wallet and donation platform that is appropriate for the organization’s requirements and compatible with the cryptocurrencies the foundation intends to accept.

It is crucial to choose a secure and reliable wallet provider to ensure the safety of the foundation’s funds and to facilitate the efficient processing of cryptocurrency donations.

Benefits of a Crypto-Based Private Foundation

A crypto-based private foundation offers a range of benefits that can enhance the foundation’s impact and reach. By leveraging the unique features of cryptocurrency, foundations can enjoy tax incentives, an increased donor base, and enhanced control over funds.

These benefits can help private foundations make a more significant impact on their chosen causes, and to adapt to the changing landscape of philanthropy as new technologies continue to emerge. However, it is essential to be aware of the challenges and considerations associated with using cryptocurrency in a private foundation, and to implement strategies and safeguards to mitigate these risks.

Tax incentives

One of the primary benefits of using cryptocurrency in a private foundation is the potential tax incentives for donors. By donating appreciated cryptocurrency to a private foundation, donors may avoid capital gains tax while still claiming a tax deduction for their charitable contributions. This can make donating cryptocurrency an attractive option for individuals and businesses looking to support charitable causes while also benefiting from tax savings.

Increased donor base

Accepting cryptocurrency donations can also help private foundations expand their donor base. By offering a wider range of payment methods, foundations can attract a more diverse group of donors, including those who prefer to use cryptocurrencies for their transactions.

This can lead to increased charitable donations and a larger pool of donor advised funds available for the foundation to distribute to its chosen causes, ultimately boosting its impact and reach.

Enhanced control over funds

Using cryptocurrency in a private foundation can also provide enhanced control over funds. Through blockchain technology and secure wallets, foundations can monitor donations in real-time and ensure that funds are being used as intended.

Additionally, the use of multi-signature wallets, which require multiple private keys to authorize a transaction, can provide an extra layer of security and accountability for the foundation’s funds.

Challenges and Considerations for Crypto Private Foundations

While there are significant benefits to incorporating cryptocurrency into a private foundation, there are also challenges and considerations that must be taken into account. These include regulatory compliance, volatility and risk management, and security and fraud prevention.

By addressing these challenges and implementing appropriate strategies and safeguards, a crypto-focused private foundation can successfully navigate the complexities of using cryptocurrency for philanthropic purposes and enjoy the many benefits it has to offer.

Regulatory compliance

Crypto private foundations must comply with the same regulations as traditional private foundations, such as filing annual tax returns, retaining records, and ensuring that all donations are documented appropriately. Additionally, they must ensure that their activities do not violate any laws or regulations specific to cryptocurrency, such as those related to money laundering, anti-terrorism, and tax reporting.

By staying up-to-date with the relevant laws and regulations and working closely with legal and financial advisors, a crypto private foundation can maintain compliance and avoid potential penalties or loss of tax-exempt status.

Volatility and risk management

The volatile nature of cryptocurrencies presents a significant challenge for private foundations, as the value of their investments can fluctuate rapidly and unpredictably. To manage this volatility and risk, foundations can implement strategies such as diversifying their investments, utilizing hedging strategies, and monitoring the market for changes in cryptocurrency prices and regulations.

By employing these strategies, a crypto private foundation can minimize potential losses while maximizing the benefits of using cryptocurrency for philanthropic purposes.

Security and fraud prevention

Ensuring the security of the foundation’s funds and protecting against fraud is another critical consideration for crypto private foundations. Measures to safeguard against fraud and cyber attacks include using blockchain-based authentication systems, secure key generation and storage, and conducting regular assessments to ensure the effectiveness of security measures.

By implementing these security measures, a crypto private foundation can protect its funds and maintain the trust of its donors and beneficiaries.

Integrating Crypto into Your Existing Private Foundation

If you have an existing private foundation and are considering incorporating cryptocurrency, there are several factors to consider, including the potential benefits and risks, the development of a crypto strategy, and the implementation of best practices. By carefully evaluating these factors and working with experienced legal and financial advisors, you can successfully integrate cryptocurrency into your existing private foundation and unlock the unique benefits that this innovative approach to philanthropy has to offer.

Evaluating the benefits and risks

Before integrating cryptocurrency into your existing private foundation, it is essential to weigh the potential advantages and drawbacks of this new form of investment income. While cryptocurrency can provide greater transparency, efficiency, and the opportunity to attract younger donors, it also comes with challenges such as market volatility and potential legal and regulatory issues.

By carefully considering these benefits and risks, including the potential impact on net investment income, you can make an informed decision about whether incorporating cryptocurrency is the right choice for your private foundation.

Developing a crypto strategy

Once you have decided to integrate cryptocurrency into your private foundation, it’s essential to develop a crypto strategy that aligns with your foundation’s objectives and requirements. This involves researching the various types of cryptocurrencies, understanding the legal and regulatory implications, and determining the most effective method for accepting and managing contributions.

A well-crafted crypto strategy can help ensure the successful integration of cryptocurrency into your private foundation and maximize the benefits it provides.

Implementing best practices

Incorporating cryptocurrency into your private foundation requires adherence to best practices, including setting up a secure cryptocurrency wallet and donation platform, establishing a clear policy for receiving and managing crypto contributions, and monitoring the market for changes in cryptocurrency prices and regulations.

By following these best practices, you can help ensure the smooth integration of cryptocurrency into your existing private foundation and enjoy the many advantages this innovative approach to philanthropy has to offer.


The integration of cryptocurrency into private foundations presents a new world of opportunities for philanthropists seeking to maximize their impact and adapt to the changing landscape of giving. While the benefits of tax incentives, an expanded donor base, and enhanced control over funds are attractive, it is crucial to address the challenges and considerations associated with using cryptocurrency in a private foundation. By following a structured process, developing a robust crypto strategy, and implementing best practices, you can successfully leverage the power of cryptocurrency to create a lasting legacy of giving.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start my own private foundation?

Beginning a private foundation requires a clear definition of purpose, the appointment of trustees and directors, an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, and filing for tax-exempt status with both the IRS and your state government.

With these steps in place, you’ll be able to launch a successful foundation that supports causes meaningful to you.

What is the minimum amount to start a private foundation?

Beginning a private foundation requires a minimum of $500,000 for a third-party administrator or $2 – $5 million if it will hire staff. Consequently, careful consideration is necessary to ensure adequate resources are available.

How do private foundations make money?

Private foundations are usually funded by a single donor or family, and generate their income through donations. These donations often come with tax deductions, allowing the foundation to make investments that can bring in additional funds.

This income is then used to cover the foundation’s operational costs and fund charitable activities.

What are the primary benefits of using cryptocurrency in a private foundation?

Cryptocurrency utilization in a private foundation allows for improved transparency of finances, enhanced control over funds, and increased access to global donors.

What are the potential risks and challenges associated with using cryptocurrency in a private foundation?

Utilizing cryptocurrency in private foundations presents certain risks and challenges, such as the need to comply with regulatory requirements, manage volatility and risk, and prevent fraud and security breaches.

Furthermore, there is also a general lack of understanding and knowledge regarding cryptocurrencies that could be a barrier for use within a foundation.

Legal Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The content presented is not intended to be a substitute for professional legal, tax, or financial advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. Readers are encouraged to consult with their own attorney, CPA, and tax advisors to obtain specific guidance and advice tailored to their individual circumstances. No responsibility is assumed for any inaccuracies or errors in the information contained herein, and John Montague and Montague Law expressly disclaim any liability for any actions taken or not taken based on the information provided in this article.

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