The purpose of the Finnish Cultural Foundation is to "promote and develop cultural and economic life" in Finland. In line with this, the Foundation provides grants to individuals and groups working in the sciences and the arts, and to people and organisations in other fields of intellectual and cultural endeavour. The Foundation also supports larger projects through substantial grants.

Grants are awarded annually from the Foundation's Central Fund and 17 Regional Funds, as well as various donor funds, in accordance with the wishes of the donors concerned and the regulations governing the funds in question.

In addition to providing grants, the Foundation also arranges courses, lectures, and other events in the arts, sciences, and other fields, and maintains an art collection. The Foundation's most important international event is the Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition, which is held every five years.