Foundation-giving patterns seen steady in downturn

Nonprofits should put aside concerns that the economic downturn will force foundations to shift their funding priorities, says a research advisory from the Foundation Center.

Though the economic slump may affect overall levels of grantmaking, the advisory says, foundations are likely to stick to their missions.

Grantmaking priorities in most areas, including health, the arts and international affairs, hold steady over the long-term regardless of resources, says the advisory, “Do Foundation Giving Priorities Change in Times of Economic Distress?”

“There is no guarantee that patterns seen during the early 2000s’ economic downturn will predict how the current reality will unfold,” Steven Lawrence, author of the advisory and senior director of research at the center, says in a statement. “But nonprofits should feel reassured that dramatic changes in overall foundation giving priorities are unlikely.”

Many foundations already have announced efforts to address the current economic crisis, including the MacArthur Foundation’s $68 million foreclosure-prevention initiative in Chicago and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s initial $2.7 million toward a project that aims to improve the public’s understanding of economics and finance.

Though U.S. foundations respond to pressing needs that arise outside their focus areas, such as giving a total of nearly $1.2 billion following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes, they usually tap into emergency funds or their endowments to finance these efforts, the advisory says.

Founded in 1956, the Foundation Center conducts research on U.S. grantmakers and provides information and tools for nonprofits.

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