Funding patterns ‘stable’ in 2008

PJ staff report

While grant dollars among foundations grew 5.4 percent in 2008, the first year of the economic downturn, foundation funding fell in five of 10 big fields of interest, a new report says.

Foundation funding for human services showed the biggest decline, 12.7 percent, followed by funding for science and technology, says the 2010 edition of Foundation Giving Trends.

The study looked at grant-making by nearly 1,500 foundations and, in some categories, among smaller groups of foundations.

The fields of environment and animals, international affairs, and health all posted double-digit gains, while the fields of human services and of science and technology reported double-digit declines.

Health accounted for the largest share of 2008 grant dollars, followed by education, human services and the arts.

The field of environment and animals posted the fastest rate of growth in foundation funding, nearly 30 percent, and international giving grew to a record-high 24.4 percent of grant dollars.

The economically disadvantaged benefited from the biggest share of grant dollars, 27.5 percent, while funding for women and girls grew 56 percent.

Funders awarded a record-high total of 214 grants of $10 million or more, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation providing six of the 10 largest grants, mainly for health and international development.

Still, data for 2008 suggest grant-making priorities have remain “largely stable” over the long term.

Steve Lawrence, director of research at the Foundation Center and principal author of the report, says in a statement that while the “full force of the economic crisis did not register in 2008 foundation giving,” losses among half the major fields of interest “showed what would come the following year.”

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