What are direct charitable activities?

Direct charitable activities (DCAs) are those in which the foundation maintains some significant involvement, rather than simply awarding a grant to a recipient that carries out the activity. Examples include:

  • Conducting educational seminars and conferences
  • Providing goods, shelter, or clothing in which the foundation maintains some significant involvement (e.g., the distribution or delivery of the materials), rather than simply making grants to a recipient that carries out the activity
  • Conducting research having significance beyond the foundation’s grant program and not constituting lobbying
  • Publishing and disseminating the results of such research, reports of educational conferences, or similar educational material
  • Supporting the service of foundation staff on boards or advisory committees of other charitable organizations or on public commissions or task forces
  • Providing technical assistance to grantees

The expenses associated with DCAs count toward a foundation’s qualifying distributions and must be reported annually on the foundation’s Form 990-PF. Expenses attributable to reviewing grant applications or reports, conducting site visits, or selecting grantees usually do not constitute DCAs.

Administrative expenses may be higher for foundations that undertake a significant percentage of DCAs.

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