Giving grows slightly to benefit communities in need

Excluding the huge Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, giving by big U.S. foundations to benefit underserved communities grew slightly in 2011 from 2008 to 2010 and represented less than a third of their overall grantmaking, while their giving to support nonprofit operations grew sharply and represented less than a fourth of their overall grantmaking, a recent report says.

“There are some hopeful signs that more foundations are giving in ways that benefit those that need philanthropic support the most,” Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, or NCRP, says in a statement.

Based on an analysis of all grants of $10,000 or more awarded in 2011 by 1,121 of the biggest U.S. foundations, NCRP says, foundations gave $10.2 billion in grants to benefit underserved communities, including the economically disadvantaged, ethnic and racial minorities, and women and girls, and $2.9 billion to empower them.

Foundation grant dollars reported as benefiting the poor, elderly, women and other marginalized groups grew from $7.8 billion a year on average for 2008-10, and represented 42 percent of total grant dollars, down from 40 percent, says The Philanthropic Landscape: The State of Giving to Underserved Communities 2011.

Foundation funding that aimed to empower or engage disenfranchised groups in addressing problems their communities face fell slightly from $3 billion a year on average for 2008-10, and represented 12 percent of total grant dollars, down from 15 percent in 2008-10.

Without the Gates Foundation, the share of total giving for marginalized communities held steady at 31 percent.

Foundation funding for general operating support grew to $5.9 billion in 2011 from $3.4 billion a year on average for 2008-10 and represented 24 percent of overall giving, up from 16 percent.

And multi-year funding grew to $7.2 billion in 2011 from $5.5 billion in 2009 and represented 29 percent of all giving, up from 25 percent in 2009.

The Gates Foundation alone provided 60 percent of those multi-year grant dollars.

Foundations in the South are less likely to report giving to benefit underserved communities, while one in five funders throughout the U.S. provides at least half its grants dollars to benefit those communities.

And while the share of reported grant dollars that support social justice fell, the median grew to 7 percent in 2011 from 4 percent among grantmakers that do provide social-justice funding.

Family foundations, foundations in the South and funders giving $5 million to $10 million were more likely to provide general operating support.

And among foundations that provide multi-year funding commitments, that giving is consistent and at high levels, although only 5 percent of foundations surveyed reported at least half their grant dollars as multi-year funding.

– Todd Cohen

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