Foundation giving climbs

The largest U.S. foundations saw modest growth in grantmaking last year and predict giving will be flat this year, a new study says.

Combined giving by the 68,000 largest foundations grew to $33.6 billion last year, a 5.5 percent increase over 2004, or 2 percent after adjusting for inflation, a new study by the Foundation Center says.

Of those grantmakers, a group of 850 expect that, after adjusting for inflation, giving next year will be flat.

The New York City-based Foundation Center published the annual study, “Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: Current Outlook,” which is based on actual results from 68,000 foundations, as well as a survey of 850 large and mid-sized grantmaking organizations.

The growth in giving last year was due in part to growth in foundation assets, which climbed 7.1 percent, exceeding $500 billion for the first time, the study says.

Giving in response to natural disasters, including the tsunami in East Asia and Gulf Coast hurricanes, also contributed to the growth.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with $28.8 billion in assets in 2004, more than any other foundation, gave $1.26 billion last year, also more than any other foundation.

The Ford Foundation ranked second in both categories, with $10.7 billion in assets in 2004 and $522 million in giving, the study says.

Giving by community foundations grew 10.9 percent last year, outpacing the 4.4 percent increase posted by independent foundations and 5.8 percent growth seen by corporate foundations, the study says.

Assets of independent foundations, which represent almost nine in 10 of all foundations, rose 6.5 percent in 2004, the study says, compared to 7.8 percent growth for corporate funders and a surge of 13.6 percent for community foundations.

Community foundations received a combined $3.86 billion in gifts last year, up 11 percent over the year prior.

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