Community fund courts donors

Despite a 15 percent plunge in gifts and the first decline in assets in a decade, community foundations in the U.S. paid 15 percent more in grants in 2001 and their assets still outperformed the stock market, two new surveys say.

And gifts to donor-advised funds surged at community foundations responding to a third survey.

Gifts to community foundations fell to $3.5 billion and the market value of their assets fell less than 1 percent to $31.4 billion, while grants grew 18 percent to $2.6 billion, according to the 2001 survey of 658 community foundations prepared by The Columbus Foundation in Ohio and the community foundations leadership team of the Council on Foundations.

The median return on investment for community foundation, with half doing better and half doing worse, was –3.9 percent, the lowest annual return since the council began surveying investment performance in 1991.

Still, despite the stumbling stock market drop, most community foundations outperformed the Dow, which fell 5.5 percent, and the S&P 500, which fell 11.9 percent, the council says.

Community foundations “kept their losses to a minimum, thanks to sound investment strategies,” says Dorothy Ridings, the council’s president.

“At the same time,” she says, “community foundations increased their grantmaking, a classic example of their ability to combine good investment strategy with successful development and continued support of area nonprofits.”

Gifts to donor-advised funds at 188 community foundations responding to a separate survey totaled $1.45 billion.

That increased assets in those funds to $5.2 billion, or one-fourth of their $20.9 billion in total assets, says the survey by the Columbus Foundation, the council’s community foundations team and Community Foundations of America.

Grants from donor-advised funds totaled $695.4 million.

The New York Community Trust had the highest market value of any community foundation, nearly $1.8 billion, and paid the most in grants, $125.2 million, while the Tulsa Community Foundation in Oklahoma received the most gifts, $136.6 million.

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