News and analysis
November 19, 2010

Foundation Giving Won’t Grow Much Next Year, Study Finds

Foundation giving is expected to tick up modestly in 2011, but it may take several years before grants match pre-recession levels, according to a survey by the Foundation Center, in New York. The survey of more than 700 grant makers found that a slightly higher share planned to give more next year than in 2009 (21 percent) than planned to give less (15 percent). Fifty-nine percent predicted that their giving would be flat. (The remaining 6 percent of respondents were uncertain.)

The survey also found that the recession isn’t likely to make a permanent difference in how foundations give or operate.

Forty percent of those organizations surveyed said they had modified what causes they support in light of the recession, but just 8 percent expected those changes to be long-term.

Of the foundations that did anticipate longer-term changes, some said they would be providing more money to help poor and vulnerable people. Others said they had limited the number of causes they support.

Trimming Costs

Fifty-seven percent of foundations polled, meanwhile, reported changes to how they run their organizations. But just 12 percent anticipated at least some of those changes would endure.

Among the changes foundations thought might persist over the next several years: eliminating the printing of annual reports, attending fewer conferences, and making fewer visits to grantees.

Foundations laid off fewer people in 2010 than in 2009, the worst year of the downturn. The vast majority of those polled expect to maintain their current staff size next year.

The survey, which was conducted in September, also looked at whether the recession prompted foundations to consider closing by a certain date. The answer, for the most part, was no: Of the 6 percent that did plan to shut down by a set time, only one in seven cited the recession as a factor in that decision.