Foundations are a legal framework within which citizens, businesses, government institutions and other organizations allocate part of their assets to the implementation of a variety of beneficial and charitable purposes. Activities of foundations are voluntary and belong to the area of civil society. The institute of foundation is very old, with distinctive roots in ancient times. The foundation does not have members or owners.
When, for example, citizens, using the freedom of association, link with the purpose of undertaking environmental protection activities and fighting against drug addiction, they will choose the association model as a particular legal entity (universitas personarum).
When citizens allocate part of their assets to the common good, for example to support gifted children and encourage scientific research, they use the fundamental right of free disposal of their assets. The most appropriate organizational form for such activity is a foundation as a particular legal entity. In this case, after the establishment of a foundation the assets get their own legal life (Universitas bonorum, universitas rerum). The foundation is no longer dependent on the length of life of its founder, but rather on the effective management of assets and reputation acquired by supporting a prestigious public programs.
Foundations registered to cater public good are most active in the field of science and education, social protection, health, arts and culture and internationally.
Foundations are most developed in the United States, while recently their increasingly important role can be noticed in European countries as well. Foundations become stakeholders with the power to gather prominent citizens and thus influence important processes in societies. An increasing number of companies, as an expression of their social responsibility, establish their own foundations. Around the world cross-border activities of foundations are getting more and more noticeable, and the European Union in particular encourages their development as a catalyst for positive social change.