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Despite Economy, Some Foundations Plan to Increase Giving

(May 5, 2008) Three recent surveys that asked foundations if they plan to increase their giving in 2008 and beyond show mixed results, though many grant makers have stepped up their gifts this year to help those affected by the economy.

According to a survey by the Foundation Center, 54 percent of charities are planning to increase their grant making in 2008, while 28 percent are expecting to decrease their gifts. The report, Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: Current Outlook (2008 Edition), surveyed 1,240 foundations and found that the recent economic troubles have not had a major impact on giving levels for 2008.

The report projects that the United States’ 72,000 grant making foundations increased their giving by an estimated 10 percent to approximately $42.9 billion in 2007. This growth follows a 7.1 percent increase in 2006, and the report concludes that positive growth will continue in foundation giving for 2008, though most likely at a more modest rate.

Concerns for the Future

A second survey, by the Council on Foundations, shows that 33 percent of foundations have stepped up their giving to help people affected by the economy in 2008, and another 37 percent expect to do so next year. However, the web-based survey of 320 council members also found that 43 percent indicated they are planning on giving less in 2009 because of the impact of the economy.

Finally, a third survey conducted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy released in March (login required) showed that 40 percent of some of the wealthiest foundations expected to give the same amount in 2008 as they did last year. Just five percent expected to give less. In addition, 46 percent stated they expected their giving to rise by more than 3 percent.

“We know from our own State of Fundraising Survey and from talking with fundraisers at our annual International Conference on Fundraising that fundraising and giving are not in the terrible straits that are sometimes portrayed in the media,” said Paulette V. Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. “We also have to remember that many foundations emphasize long-range planning for their giving and investments and so are able to account for and overcome fluctuations in the stock and marketing and the economy.

“But at the same time, we have to acknowledge that the longer this economic situation continues, fundraisers will be increasingly challenged to generate critically needed support from a variety of donors, including foundations.  There are signs that the economy is beginning to take its toll on some foundations, which means that fundraisers are going to need to focus on their relationship-building and stewardship efforts with their funders.”

AFP examined the impact of the economy on corporate foundations and some general strategies for keeping foundation relationships strong in a previous issue of eWire.

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