Foundation grants to empower poor communities have increased in recent years, significantly in some cases, according to results reported in two new studies released today by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) in Washington, D.C.
“The State of Giving to Underserved Communities,” reported that the proportion of foundation grant dollars meant to help disadvantaged people, the elderly, women, girls, and other marginalized groups was 40 percent during the period from 2008 to 2010. This was a 7 percent increase from 2004 to 2006, when the number stood at 33 percent.
NCRP’s companion report, “The State of Social Justice Philanthropy,” showed that giving to these groups increased from 12 percent of grant dollars in 2004-2006 to 15 percent in 2008-2010.
“We’re seeing slow but steady progress in a positive direction,” said Aaron Dorfman, executive director of NCRP, in a press release. “The data suggest that our nation’s grant-making foundations may be realizing that they can achieve their missions more effectively and also serve the common good by prioritizing and empowering those with the least wealth, opportunity and power.”
NCRP found that the funders that gave the most total grant dollars to benefit underprivileged communities were the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. The Gates and Ford Foundations, along with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, were also the largest social justice funders by amount given.
Niki Jagpal, NCRP research analyst and co-author of the two studies, said that there could be a number of factors behind the increases seen in the reports. “The increase in giving to the poor could be attributable to donors recognizing that the poor were hit the hardest because of the recession,” said Jagpal. “For the increase in social justice funding, it is possible that foundations saw some recent events such as Occupy Wall Street, LGBT advances etc., and started paying more attention to progressive social justice work.”
Jagpal also acknowledged that the increases could simply be due to better reporting and coding of the data.
Other key findings in the two studies include:
- One in six funders allocated at least 50 percent of their grant dollars to benefit marginalized communities.
- Funding to benefit the poor doubled in terms of raw dollars and increased from 20 to 31 percent of total giving.
- Social justice grants as a share of total giving decreased among community foundations, operating foundations, and grantmakers in the South but increased among large funders.
- Eight percent of foundations included in the studies reported giving more than 25 percent of grant dollars for social justice causes.
NCRP worked with New York City-based Foundation Center to create custom datasets of grants of $10,000 or more from the top 1,300 foundations. Grants to individuals were not included, though international grants were considered.
“The State of Giving for Underserved Communities” and “The State of Social Justice Philanthropy” were written by Jagpal and NCRP policy associate Kevin Laskowski, and are the third and fourth reports in the organization’s “The Philanthropic Landscape” series. The first two studies were “The State of Multi-Year Funding” and “The State of General Operating Support.” All four studies can be found at http://www.ncrp.org/campaigns-research-policy/the-philanthropic-landscape