Foundations Commit Over $100 Million to Address the Economic Crisis

A growing number of grantmakers have made exceptional commitments to address the causes and impact of the current economic downturn, a new Foundation Center research advisory shows. “A First Look at the Foundation and Corporate Response to the Economic Crisis” examines giving by close to 50 institutional donors that have already announced over $100 million in grants and program-related investments for efforts ranging from reducing the number of foreclosures to shoring up food banks and services for the homeless to providing financial counseling.

The Center has been collecting the most recent data available on U.S. foundation support for the crisis and updating this information regularly on an interactive map and a daily RSS grant feed available at its web site.

“The new administration will have to take the lead in restoring America’s badly tattered social safety net,” said Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center. “In the meantime, foundations are doing what they do best: acting swiftly, reaching those too often forgotten, and piloting new approaches to deepening challenges.”

The support provided by these initial responders demonstrates a strong but by no means exclusive focus on local needs, with community foundations playing a critical role in directing resources to their home communities. “We have been told by multiple providers in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties that they are seeing double-digit increases in demand for their services,” said Emmett Carson, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has committed close to $3 million in response to the crisis. “In many cases, the need is greater than anything these organizations have seen in their histories. Increasingly, it is residents on Main Street — not the side streets and back alleys of our communities — that are being affected.”

Among those funding the crisis at the national level, corporate foundations are an important source of support. The GE Foundation, the philanthropic organization of the GE Company, recently announced that it will direct more than $20 million in funding in 2009 to organizations responding to the impact of the economic downturn. “Families are facing one of the worst economic recessions of our lifetime, forcing many to seek food and shelter services,” said Bob Corcoran, president of GE Foundation, whose $10.5 million grant to the United Way of America is the single largest commitment for shelter assistance and homeless services so far.

“This support is just the beginning of the foundation and corporate response,” said Steven Lawrence, the Center’s senior director of research and author of the advisory. “Institutional donors will undoubtedly make more of these commitments as the continuing economic crisis touches ever-greater numbers of organizations and individuals.”

The advisory also notes that many foundations and corporations will respond to the economic crisis in a less prominent but equally critical way by maintaining stable levels of giving or minimizing funding cuts despite pronounced losses in income and the value of their assets.

This Foundation Center research advisory is the latest in a series that explores the impact of the current economic downturn on the nonprofit sector. The first, “Past Economic Downturns and the Outlook for Foundation Giving,” was issued in October 2008; and the second, “Do Foundation Giving Priorities Change in Times of Economic Distress?“, was issued in November 2008.

The advisories are available at the Center’s regularly updated online feature, “Focus on the Economic Crisis,” which offers a variety of resources to help nonprofits and foundations deal with the challenges of an unstable economy, including maps of grants for the crisis, grantmakers with giving interests for crisis-related causes, community foundations, and the Center’s nationwide network of funding information centers; news, articles, and commentary from our Philanthropy News Digest and other sources; podcasts of interviews with philanthropic leaders; and information about fundraising training.