Limited Life Foundations: Motivations, experiences, and strategies

“I started the foundation in order to do what I wanted. . . . Twenty-five years after I’m gone, the foundation will terminate.” The donor who said this describes himself as “not super-conventional.” His decision to limit his foundation’s life is indeed an unconventional one. Most foundations are established in perpetuity, but the limited life option is starting to attract more attention, including media coverage of high profile examples of foundation closures. A major gap in the literature on philanthropy, however, is the absence of research on the motivations, strategies, and experiences associated with the decision to sunset. Consequently, little information is available to assist donors, foundation
trustees, and staff wishing to consider and/or implement a plan to sunset.”


Compares characteristics of foundations established in perpetuity and foundations set to terminate by a specific date. Explores both personal and strategic reasons for “sunsetting” and positive and negative effects of limited life on the foundation.

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Strategic Lifespan and Limited Life Foundations

This NCFP Content Collection is aimed at new donors considering what strategic lifespan will best work for their foundation, as well as existing foundations that have already set a closing date, or any family or board contemplating the question.

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