Foundations expect uptick in giving

PJ staff report

Giving by U.S. foundations could grow slightly more in 2011 after staying flat this year but is not likely for several years to match the peak it hit in 2008, a new report says.

Twenty-one percent of 719 foundations responding to a September survey by the Foundation Center indicated their giving will rise next year, with corporate foundations most likely to expect increases.

Fifty-nine percent of foundations expect to give the same next year as this year, while 15 percent expect to give less and six percent are not certain how their giving might change.

To cope with the impact of the recession, 57 percent of grantmakers cut staffing, travel or other operating expenses to cope with the impact of the recession, for example.

But in a sign the tide may have turned, only 12 percent expect to keep those cuts in place over the long-term.

Cuts they might keep in place, the survey says, include fewer site visits to grantees, attending fewer conferences, eliminating print copies of annual reports, and moving to electronic grant applications.

“The foundation community is adapting in our dramatically changed environment,” Steven Lawrence, director of research at the Foundation Center and author of the report, says in a statement.

“Even though the 2010 economy has been anything but predictable,” he says, “foundations are working with greater efficiency, holding their giving steady, and a number are planning for growth.”

Still, while 51 percent of respondents rate as “good” or “excellent” the overall  responsiveness of U.S. foundations to the crisis, nearly one in five rate the response as “fair” or “poor.”

Roughly 40 percent of survey respondents made some type of modification in their grantmaking priorities, and fewer than 8 percent of overall respondents expect to keep those changes long-term.

For the longer-term, some funders expect to provide more support for safety-net work and vulnerable populations, while others expect to tighten their grantmaking focus to eliminate funding outside their priority areas or to reduce the number of areas they fund.

Some funders are giving more operating support, some are making more grants but in smaller amounts, and some are making fewer grants but in larger amounts.

Over 41 percent of survey respondents have made grants, program-related investments or provided other types of support specifically to address problems connected to the economic crisis, while 17 percent already expect to make additional commitments over the next year related to the crisis.

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