• February 1, 2015

40% of Foundations Expect Giving to Drop in 2009, Chronicle Study Finds

Assets at the nation’s largest private foundations fell by a median of 28 percent from 2007 to 2008, and 40 percent of grant makers who participated in a new Chronicle survey say they expect giving to decline in 2009.

In addition, a study by the Foundation Center, in New York, also predicts grant makers will cut giving this year — and next. That study, released today, also found that the nation’s grant makers lost $150-billion in assets last year, a figure nearly comparable with their total giving over the past four years.

The Chronicle’s survey found that 104 of the largest grant makers lost more than $50-billion in assets in 2008. Assets at the 10 wealthiest foundations dropped 22 to 37 percent from December 2007 to December 2008.

The newspaper polled the country’s 150 largest foundations by assets or grants paid. The full results of the study will be included in the Chronicle’s next issue, which will be mailed to subscribers on Thursday and posted online on Monday. (To see preliminary findings from the Chronicle’s survey of wealthy foundations — and details about foundations’ responses to the economy — see this article, published in February)

The total amount the 107 foundations in the new Chronicle survey distributed last year rose by about 5 percent.

Among grant makers that provided estimates to The Chronicle of what they expect to give this year, the median decline in giving is forecast to be about 2 percent. In the 2008 edition of The Chronicle’s study, just 4 percent of survey respondents expected to decrease their giving by 3 percent or more compared with their grant making in 2008. However, in The Chronicle’s latest findings, more than 40 percent of grant makers said they decreased the amount they distributed last year.

Recession’s Toll

As expected, the economy is playing a large role in how foundations are managing their assets and determining plans for future grant making, the Chronicle study found. Among its other findings:

Thirty-eight percent of Chronicle survey respondents said they have cut staff positions or other expenses because of the recession. Twenty-one percent said their foundation canceled, stalled, or spread out payments to grantees. Twenty-two percent said they have offered nongrant assistance to hard-hit charities or communities. Twenty percent said their organization has increased the percentage of net assets it will distribute.

Meanwhile, a new study examining giving by private, corporate, and community foundations by the Foundation Center found that total giving by these grant makers increased 2.8 percent from 2007 to 2008.

However, when the nation’s largest foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in Seattle, is excluded, the increase in giving by other grant makers was just 1 percent.

But that may be the last increase for a couple of years. The Foundation Center said that giving is expected to decline “in the high single digits to the low double digits” in 2009 and further in 2010.

Community foundations, which saw the largest increase in giving from 2007 to 2008, are more likely than private or corporate foundations to decrease giving levels in 2009, the Foundation Center study found.

The Foundation Center’s study estimates that the country’s 75,000 grant makers held more than $530-billion in assets at the end of 2008, a drop of $150-billion from the previous year.

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