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Foundation giving grows despite weak economy

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Giving by grantmaking foundations in the U.S. jumped to $42.9 billion last year, growth of 10 percent in the face of a slowing economy, a new report says.

The strong showing was due in part to an 11.6 percent rise in assets in 2006, as well as the creation of new foundations, says the Foundation Center in the 2008 edition of its “Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: Current Outlook.”

Although the economic outlook is murky, more than half the 72,000 foundations in the U.S. expect to give more in 2008 than in 2007, and almost two-thirds of foundations awarding $10 million or more in grants a year expect to give more next year.

The combined assets of all foundations rose again in 2007, reaching an estimated $669.5 billion, up almost 9 percent over 2006, a development the report says bodes well for increased giving in 2008.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave away almost $1.6 billion in 2006, more than any other U.S. foundation.

All types of foundation saw increases in giving, but community foundations led the way with a jump of 13.9 percent in 2007 compared to 2006, marking the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth.

Combined, community foundations awarded $4.1 billion last year, and their assets totaled $49.9 billion, up 12 percent from 2006.

Giving by independent and family foundations grew 12.7 percent to $30.9 billion in 2007, with assets totaling $509.1 billion, up 12 percent over 2006.

Giving as a percentage of assets, required by law to be at least 5 percent for independent foundations, reached an average of 6.1 percent, up slightly from 6.0 percent in 2006.

Corporate foundations reported slower growth, up 6.6 percent to reach $4.4 billion in 2007, the report says.

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