News and analysis
October 08, 2015

Family Foundations Give Less to Social Justice Than Other Grant Makers Do

Title: Families Funding Change: How Social Justice Giving Honors Our Roots and Empowers Communities

Organization: National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

Summary: Family foundations made $4 billion in grants for social-justice work from 2004 to 2012, roughly 9 percent of all grant making from such foundations, according to the study.

Meanwhile, grants for social justice accounted for 14 percent of grant making from all foundations.

The study was based on an analysis of the 1,000 largest U.S. foundations by giving, of which about 44 percent are family foundations.

Family foundations lag behind in this area for many reasons, the study says, and one stands out.

"Social justice grant making often is perceived as a political third rail," the study says. "It can stir up interfamily political divisions and worry those family philanthropists for whom humility and charity are primary concerns."

Among the findings:

  • About two thirds of family foundations increased their percentage of funding for social-justice work from 2004 to 2012
  • Some family foundations that devote large portions of grant making to social justice include the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Melville Charitable Trust, and the Moriah Fund.

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