Family-foundation giving jumps

Family foundations, which include some of the largest funders in the U.S., saw spikes in both assets and giving in 2006, a new report says.

Defined by the Foundation Center as independent foundations with “measurable donor or donor-family involvement,” family foundations account for almost six in 10 dollars awarded by the nation’s independent foundations.

While growth in the number of family foundations grew only 2 percent from 2005 to 2006, total giving jumped 21.4 percent to $17 billion, and combined assets grew 11.5 percent to almost $260 billion.

These foundations received more than $14 billion in gifts combined in 2006, the report says, up 18.4 percent.

The largest family foundation, and the largest foundation in the world, is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which held assets of $33.1 billion and awarded $2.8 billion in 2006.

The Lilly Endowment came in a distant second, with $7.6 billion in assets and $352 million in giving.

More than half the grants awarded by family foundations funded specific grants, while about two in 10 were “general” grants.

Compared to all independent foundations, larger family foundations preferred to give to health, education, the environment, and animals and religion, the report says.

In three of four regions in the U.S., education groups received the largest share of grant dollars, ranging from 26 percent to 35 percent.

In the West, health was the favorite focus of family-foundations, receiving 44 percent of all grant dollars.

More than half of all family foundations are smaller, with less than $50,000 in giving in 2006, while six in 10 held assets of less than $1 million.

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