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Foundations’ international giving dips

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PJ staff report

While international giving by U.S. foundations declined slightly last year, it fared better than overall foundation giving, which fell 8.4 percent, a new study says.

Grantmaking for international causes totaled $6.7 billion in 2009, down 4 percent from $7 billion in 2008, says a joint study from the Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations.

International grantmaking was buoyed by foundations’ decision to cut expenses to keep grants up, and by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is by far the nation’s largest international grantmaker.

Excluding giving by the Gates Foundation, grantmaking overall and for international causes both would have declined about 9 percent in 2009.

From 2006 to 2008, the two years leading up to the worst of the recession, international grantmaking grew to 24.4 percent of overall foundation giving from 22 percent.

Without the Gates Foundation’s awards, international causes would have garnered 15.5 percent of overall foundation giving in 2008.

And during the same two-year period, international giving grew 49 percent, while overall giving rose 21 percent.

Independent foundations accounted for 92 percent of international grant dollars in 2008 and almost 70 percent of grants awarded, while corporations awarded 4.8 percent of grant dollars and 16.2 percent of grants.

And while community foundations awarded only 2.3 percent of international grant dollars, they awarded 12.1 percent of grants.

But the Gates Foundation dominated international giving, awarding $2.7 billion in 2008, or 44 percent of all international grant dollars that year, followed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which awarded $623 million, and the Ford Foundation, which awarded $282 million.

Health care was by far the largest recipient of international grant dollars in 2008, receiving almost 39 percent dollars awarded, down from 43 percent in 2006.

The Gates Foundation dominated international health-care giving, awarding about three quarters of the total granted in 2008, and accounted for more than half of the grant dollars awarded for international development and relief that year.

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