2016 Election Keyed Changes At Small Philanthropies
Grants, charity, nonprofit

Leaders at one in four small foundations said the organization changed granting giving as a result of the 2016 elections, with more than half funding advocacy-related activities or increasing allocations to advocacy. Those decisions did not change with the 2018 mid-term elections.

Exponent Philanthropy’s Pulse Check Survey of more than 450 small foundations showed 25 percent said they made changes, and among those, 54 percent said they began to fund advocacy or increased their allocation toward advocacy.

“While the pace of change is often slow in philanthropy, this survey shows that philanthropy, particularly those who operate with few or no staff, can be nimble in responding to current events and the changing needs of a community,” said Henry Berman, chief executive officer of Washington, D.C.-based Exponent Philanthropy.

Foundations are not legally allowed to engage in lobbying but they can commission nonpartisan data or fund public awareness campaigns, influence public policy or address causes of social issues.

The survey was conducted after the 2018 mid-term elections and showed how changes in Washington, D.C., influenced philanthropic behavior or could affect giving in 2019.

Other ways that grant makers said they had changed since 2016 included:

  • Changing allocations to specific funding areas, 32 percent;
  • Adding a new funding area, 30 percent;
  • Giving more general operating grants, 29 percent; and,
  • Giving more capacity building grants, 23 percent.

Most respondents (82 percent) said they would not make any changes to philanthropic giving in 2019 as a result of the 2018 midterms. Fewer than half (45 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that they expected philanthropy to play a more important role in society moving forward considering the outcome of the midterms. A little more than half (51 percent) expected no change.

Exponent Philanthropy, formerly the Association of Small Foundations, represents almost 2,000 members, which includes foundations with little or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors.

Information is collected anonymously and the full surveys are neither published nor available for dissemination to the public. On occasion, Exponent Philanthropy will publicly share findings from its surveys when the topics/findings are deemed relevant and useful to the philanthropy sector at large.