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Family foundations strong in 2007

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During the relatively calm market waters of 2007, family foundations saw their assets and giving grow significantly, a new study says.

The combined assets of the 40,200 family foundations in the U.S. topped $294 billion in 2007, up 10.4 percent over 2006, while their collective giving grew 13.3 percent to reach $18.5 billion.

The study, published by the Foundation Center, defines family foundations as independent foundations with “measurable donor or donor-family involvement.”

It was a lucrative year for these funders as well, with the group together taking in $23.9 billion in gifts in 2007, up more than a third from 2006.

Among larger family foundations, health was the favorite grantee group, receiving about 28 percent of all grants, followed by education, which received about 22 percent of funding.

More than half the funding provided was for programs, the report says, while fewer than two in 10 dollars were directed to general support.

Larger family foundations are more likely to have paid staff, with one in four foundations with assets of $5 million or more having employees. Among foundations with assets from $1 million to under $2.5 million, fewer than one in 10 have staff.

Board size tends to increase with age. Foundations created before the 1940s have an average of seven board members, while those established in the 2000s have an average of three.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation topped the list of family funders in 2007, with $38.9 billion in assets and $2 billion in giving.

The Lilly Endowment came in a distant second, with $7.7 billion in assets and almost $342 million in giving.

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