Saturday, May 15, 2010
The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression resulted in the biggest reduction in U.S. foundation giving on record. In 2009, the nation’s more than 75,000 grantmaking foundations cut their giving by an estimated 8.4 percent, or $3.9 billion. This was by far the largest decline in foundation giving ever tracked by the Foundation Center.
Despite its unprecedented severity, the reduction in 2009 foundation giving could have been worse. Among factors helping to moderate the overall decline in giving were the decision of a significant number of funders to reduce their operating expenses and/or use their endowments to shore up their giving during the crisis; increased giving by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; 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.
Findings from the Foundation Center’s annual “Foundation Giving Forecast Survey” suggest that 2010 foundation giving will remain flat—a prospect that would have seemed improbably optimistic at the nadir of the market just over one year ago. Should poor housing sales, increasing oil prices, persistent unemployment, or other unforeseen factors not derail the economic rebound that began late last year, it appears likely that foundation giving will show positive, albeit very modest growth in 2011.