Three specific legal forms of NPO exist in France – associations, foundations and endowment funds – each of them with their own separate legal framework.

An association can be broadly defined as non-profit making organisation formed via an agreement between two or more persons who carry out activities on a permanent basis in pursuit of the furtherance of a non-profit purpose.

A foundation is created by the irrevocable assignment of property or rights for a non-profit purpose of public benefit, and will usually takes the form of a public utility foundation, a corporate foundation, or a non-autonomous foundation under the aegis of a few public utility foundations (such as the Fondation de France). 

An endowment fund is a non profit legal entity submitted to private law. It receives and manages, by capitalising, goods and rights of any nature, which are brought into it for free and irrevocably.

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