Philanthropy Statistics Update – Giving Trends and the Economy

numbers in boxes

Following up on last month’s post about philanthropy statistics, here are a few more, drawn from the Foundation Center’s Highlights of Foundation Giving Trends, and GuideStar’s The Effect of the Economy on the Nonprofit Sector:

  • From the Foundation Center:
    • In 2008, 164,353 grants were awarded by a sample of 1,490 large foundations to 63,794 recipient organizations;
      • The average number of grants awarded by each of those 1,490 large foundations was 110;
    • The amount of grant dollars dedicated to program support (~50%) and general support (~19%) remained consistent with the previous year’s numbers;
    • All foundation types (independent, corporate, and community) prioritized giving for education and human services.  Independent foundations also prioritized giving for health, though that data could be slightly skewed by the large number of dollars the Gates Foundation has poured into health funding;
  • From the GuideStar survey:
    • 40% of respondents say that total contributions to their organizations decreased in the first five months of the year, compared to the first five months of 2009, while 28% stayed the same;
      • A previous GuideStar survey, whose results were released around the same time last year, found that 52% of respondents said that total contributions to their organizations had decreased compared to 2008.  The fact that fewer nonprofits are now reporting decreases is somewhat encouraging, but does not imply that those nonprofits that did not report a decrease this year are necessarily in good shape from a fundraising perspective;
    • Decreases in individual giving where the top-cited reasons for contributions decreasing (both fewer gifts and smaller gifts);
      • Given that individuals make up the largest percentage of donations to nonprofits, this is not surprising;
    • Corporate gifts and foundation grants also happened in fewer numbers and for fewer dollars;
    • Though fewer grants were awarded, 41% of grantmakers reported that the number of requests they received increased;
    • 62% of grantmaking organizations (both private foundations and grantmaking public charities responded to the survey) indicated that they had not made any major changes to their grantmaking practices.  Last year, 43% of grantmakers had made changes as a result of the economy.  In 2009, 20% said they had cut back on the types of programs they funded; this year, that number was down to 12%.  Here’s hoping it’s 0% in the next survey.


Image source:

Author: Dahna Goldstein
August 25, 2010, 03:59 PM

Philanthropy Statistics - A Few Numbers to Share



A few interesting philanthropy statistics:

  • 98,428 grantmakers (Foundation Center)
  • 114 new grantmakers in the past month (Foundation Center)
  • 997,579 public charities (National Center for Charitable Statistics)
  • 293,000 nonprofits that could lose their exempt status due to not meeting new IRS filing requirements (National Center for Charitable Statistics)
  • Over 372,000 grants awarded in 2008 by foundations (from Foundation Center data, some analysis mine)
  • Charitable giving dropped 3.9% in 2009 (GivingUSA)
  • Corporate giving rose 5.5% in 2009, fueled in part by in-kind giving (GivingUSA)
  • Total giving in the US was an estimated $303.75 billion (GvingUSA)
  • Of that, individuals are by far the largest single component.  Foundation and corporate giving was $52.54 billion, which is nothing to sneeze at (GivingUSA; sneezing comment mine)
  • Only 3-4% of donors do research on nonprofit performance before they give, yet 85% say they care about an organization's performance (Hope Consulting, referenced on

I'll track changes in these stats periodically.  If there are other philanthropy statistics you want to know about, leave a comment and I'll see what I can find.



Foundation Center

National Center for Charitable Statistics


Hope Consulting

Tactical Philanthropy

Image from
Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 08, 2010, 05:40 PM

U.S. Foundations - The Mystery of Foundations

I was a guest lecturer the other night for a social entrepreneurship class at the University of the District of Columbia.  Along with Hilary Cherner of Arabella Philanthropic Advisors, I talked about the role of foundations in the U.S., and about running a social enterprise dedicated to serving the needs of foundations and nonprofits.

Hilary started by asking the students, all of whom are interested in social entrepreneurship, many of whom are mid-career, if they knew what a foundation was.  Only a few hands went up.  I was a bit surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.

Foundations play a significant role in the U.S. According to the Foundation Center’s latest research, there are over 75,000 grantmaking foundations in the U.S., and they collectively awarded almost $43 billion in grants in 2009.

But the average American doesn’t really know what a foundation is or what it does.  NPR listeners hear about foundations underwriting their favorite public radio programs, and many Americans have heard something about the Gates Foundation, and perhaps about Ford and some of the other big foundations.

Even among the most engaged American citizens, those who hold leadership, committee, or board-level positions with community organizations, more than half could not name a foundation when asked, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the Packard Foundation’s Philanthropy Awareness Initiative.  Sixty percent of those polled considered themselves relatively uninformed about foundations, and only a handful (11%) could provide a specific example of the impact of a foundation on an issue they cared about.

Philanthropy's Awareness Deficit The report about the survey, Philanthropy’s Awareness Deficit, quotes Joel Fleischman, author of The Foundation: A Great American Secret, citing a report conducted in 2003 by the Council on Foundations showing that only 11% of the general public could name a foundation.  While the most engaged Americans clearly fared better, this does not bode well for the overall perception of foundations and what they do.

Not surprisingly, those who had direct experience with foundations (for example, if an organization with which they were involved received foundation grant funding) had both more knowledge of and more favorable views towards foundations.

These findings and others point to an ongoing need for greater transparency in the foundation world.  The engaged Americans who knew of foundations and their impact knew more about community foundations than private foundations.  Perhaps increased knowledge of foundations at large would increase involvement in and donations to community foundations in the short term, and to private foundations and philanthropy in general in the longer term.

Author: Dahna Goldstein
June 14, 2010, 12:00 PM

Subscribe to Email Updates

Grant Software Finder

Answer a few questions to find the right grant software solution for your organization.

Find Grant Software

Posts by Topic

see all

Recent Posts