2011 Foundation Giving Lost Ground to Inflation

New York, NY – June 7, 2012: Giving by U.S. foundations totaled an estimated $46.9 billion in 2011, surpassing the $46.8 billion pre-recession peak recorded in 2008. Yet, after accounting for inflation, contributions by the nation’s more than 76,600 foundations were down slightly from 2010. And if the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were excluded from the totals, 2011 giving would actually have gone down by roughly 3 percent after inflation.

Reflecting continued economic volatility in 2011, more than one-third of respondents to the Foundation Center’s annual survey, Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates, indicated that they had reduced their giving last year. Foundation assets were virtually unchanged in 2011 and remain well below their 2007 peak. “Foundations would like to ramp up giving, but that is unlikely to happen absent consistent economic growth,” said Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center.

Other key 2011 estimates include:

  • Independent and family foundations – which represent the vast majority of U.S. foundations – increased their charitable contributions by less than 2 percent to $33.1 billion before inflation.
  • Corporate foundation giving rose 6 percent to $5.2 billion before inflation, surpassing other types of foundations.
  • Community foundation giving declined slightly and totaled $4.2 billion before inflation.

Survey findings suggest that 2012 foundation giving will grow between 1 and 3 percent overall. With inflation averaging just under 3 percent, this suggests that it will remain unchanged at best based on real purchasing power. Survey responses indicate that foundation giving will likely continue to show consistent, albeit very modest, growth in 2013.

Giving projections for 2011 through 2013 reported in Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates are based on responses to the Foundation Center’s 2012 “Foundation Giving Forecast Survey” from 1,077 large and mid-size foundations across the country, combined with year-end economic indicators. Final giving figures for 2011 will be available in early 2013.