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Foundations trim giving

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By Jennifer Whytock

After at least five years of steady growth, foundation giving to international programs and to higher education fell for the first time in 2002, two new studies say.

While total foundation giving fell just 0.7 percent to $30.3 billion in 2002, giving to higher education fell 1 percent to $7.27 billion, and giving to international groups fell 5 percent to $3.1 billion, say the studies by the Foundation Center in New York.

International programs rely heavily on grants from large foundations, which have taken a harder hit from the weak economy than have small foundations, while higher education typically receives large, multi-year grants, which have slowed in the struggling economy.

Of total foundation grant dollars in 2001, 25 percent went to higher education, and 15 percent went to international programs, according to the studies, which looked at 1,000 of the largest foundations.

From 1998 to 2001, international giving doubled from $1.6 billion, and significantly outpaced the growth in total foundation giving.

Six of the largest foundations were responsible for most of the growth in international giving.

The Ford, Packard, Hewlett, Freeman and Carnegie foundations increased their giving by $563 million from 1998 to 2001 and accounted for 40 percent of overall growth in international giving.

And the Gates Foundation, which gave $528 million to international programs in 2001, up from just $5.5 million in 1998, represented 37 percent of the growth in international giving.

From 1997 to 2001, giving to higher education grew 73 percent from $4.2 billion, but lagged behind the 89 percent growth in overall foundation giving in that period.

Five foundations – Hewlett, Lilly, Ford, Johnson and Woodruff — accounted for 40 percent of growth in higher education giving from 1997 to 2001.

Stanford University was the top recipient of foundation grant dollars to higher education, thanks to a $400 million grant from the Hewlett Foundation, followed by Harvard and New York University.

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