The recent economic crisis caused the nation’s more than 75,000 grantmaking foundations to cut their 2009 giving by an estimated 8.4 percent – by far the largest decline ever tracked by the Foundation Center. Grant dollars fell from $46.8 billion to $42.9 billion. Yet according to Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates (2010 Edition), released Friday by the Foundation Center, this cutback totaled less than half the 17 percent loss in foundation assets recorded in the prior year.

Several factors helped to moderate the overall decline in 2009 foundation giving. Principal among them were the decision of a significant number of funders to reduce their operating expenses and/or draw upon their endowments to shore up their giving during the crisis; increased giving by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other grantmakers; continuing gifts and bequests from donors into new and existing foundations; and the practice of asset-averaging by some foundations, which reduces the impact on giving of year-to-year fluctuations in asset values.

Other key estimates for 2009 include:

  • Independent and family foundations – which represent close to nine out of 10 foundations – reduced their giving 8.9 percent to $30.8 billion in 2009.
  • Corporate foundation giving decreased 3.3 percent to $4.4 billion in 2009.
  • Community foundation giving declined 9.6 percent to $4.1 billion in 2009, exceeding decreases by independent and corporate foundations.

Findings from the Foundation Center’s annual “Foundation Giving Forecast Survey” suggest that 2010 foundation giving will remain flat – a less pessimistic outlook than respondents anticipated a year ago. Should the economic rebound not derail, foundation giving may show positive, though modest, growth in 2011.

“The economic crisis has not ended for this country’s nonprofits, and it will be some time before foundations are in a position to help them return to growth,” said Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center. “But funders have made exceptional efforts to lessen the pain faced by the nonprofit community.”

The complete report, part of the annual Foundations Today Series on foundation growth and giving, can be accessed at no charge at the Gain Knowledge area of the Foundation Center’s Website.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email