News and analysis
April 16, 2010

After Last Year's Decline, Foundation Giving Expected to Remain Flat in 2010

Giving by the nation’s grant makers fell by more than 8 percent last year, according to a new report, marking the steepest drop ever tracked by the Foundation Center, the New York group that keeps data on American foundations. Grant dollars fell from $46.8-billion in 2008 to $42.9-billion in 2009.

Yet, according to the Foundation Center’s latest report, the decline in giving totaled less than half of the 17 percent loss in foundation assets recorded in 2008.

Several factors helped keep last year’s grants from even deeper cuts, according to the report, such as the common practice of setting grants budgets based on a rolling average of asset values over several years.

In addition, many foundations cut their operating expenses last year or drew more heavily than usual from their endowments to shore up giving.

A significant giving increase by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in Seattle, and new gifts and bequests to other foundations also kept the overall grants dollars from a bigger fall.

The report’s findings are based on a Foundation Center survey of nearly 1,250 large and midsize foundations across the country. Survey responses suggest, the report says, that giving this year will remain flat and will increase only slightly 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,” Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center, said in a written statement. “But funders have made exceptional efforts to lessen the pain faced by the nonprofit community.”

The report, Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates (2010 Edition), which is available free online, also includes 2008 giving and asset figures for more than 75,000 foundations.