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2009 Saw Record Decline in Foundation Giving

(April 20, 2010) The recent economic crisis caused the more than 75,000 grantmaking foundations in the United States to cut their 2009 giving by an estimated 8.4 percent--by far the largest decline ever tracked by the Foundation Center. Grant dollars fell from $46.8 billion in 2008 to $42.9 billion in 2009.

Several factors helped to moderate the overall decline in 2009 foundation giving. Principal among them were the decision of a significant number of funders to reduce their operating expenses and/or draw upon their endowments to shore up their giving during the crisis; increased giving by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other grantmakers; 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.

Other key estimates for 2009 include:

  • Independent and family foundations - which represent close to nine out of 10 foundations - reduced their giving 8.9 percent to $30.8 billion in 2009.
  • Corporate foundation giving decreased 3.3 percent to $4.4 billion in 2009.
  • Community foundation giving declined 9.6 percent to $4.1 billion in 2009, exceeding decreases by independent and corporate foundations.

Findings from the Foundation Center's annual "Foundation Giving Forecast Survey" suggest that 2010 foundation giving will remain flat - a less pessimistic outlook than respondents anticipated a year ago. Should the economic rebound not derail, foundation giving may show positive, though modest, growth 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," said Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center. "But funders have made exceptional efforts to lessen the pain faced by the nonprofit community."

About the Foundation Giving Survey

Giving projections for 2009 through 2011 reported in Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates are based on responses to the Foundation Center's 2010 "Foundation Giving Forecast Survey" from 1,248 large and mid-size foundations across the country, combined with year-end economic indicators. Final giving figures for 2009 will be available in early 2011.

Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates also presents findings based on actual 2008 giving and assets tracked by the Foundation Center for the more than 75,000 independent, corporate, community, and grantmaking operating foundations in the United States.

About the Foundation and Corporate Response to the Economic Crisis

The Foundation Center created a Focus on the Economic Crisis area of its website in 2008 that links to numerous resources to help grantmakers, nonprofits, and the general public understand the impact of the economic downturn on institutional philanthropy. Visit to access these resources.

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