Foundation Giving Hits Record at $54.7 Billion

Foundations paid out an estimated record $54.7 billion in 2013, an increase of $2.7 billion compared to 2012’s record $52 billion. That’s according to a report, “Key Facts on U.S. Foundations,” released by the Foundation Center in New York City. “Giving by the nation’s foundations has surpassed previous record levels,” said report author Steven Lawrence, director of research at Foundation Center, via a statement.

“While some endowments are still recovering from the Great Recession, strong stock market performance has boosted the assets of many and will undoubtedly encourage more individuals to create foundations,” Lawrence said.

The report is mostly focused on 2012, the latest year for which real numbers are available. In that year, 16 percent of the total $316.2 billion in donations come from foundations, according to the Giving USA report. The Foundation Center calculated that there were 86,192 foundations with an aggregate $715 billion in assets in 2012.

The vast majority of U.S. foundations are independent foundations, those established by individual donors or families. These foundations control 82 percent of the assets, or $584 billion. They also gave 68 percent of the 2012 $52 billion total, or $35.4 billion. While community foundations made up only 1 percent of the total number of foundations, they had 9 percent of the assets and gave 10 percent of the total dollars. Foundation Center predicts community foundation giving will increase 11 percent in 2013.

The top foundation by a large margin, in terms of both assets ($37.2 billion) and giving ($3.2 billion) in 2012 was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Ford Foundation came in second in both metrics, at $11.2 billion in assets and $593 million in giving.

The report analyzed a subset of 154,000 grants totaling $22.4 billion in 2012. Health and education led the way as the top focuses for grants, at $5 billion and 22 percent of total giving each. Grants for human services, 16 percent of the total, accounted for the highest number of grants, at 42,037. The median grant amount was $30,000. Some 58,000 organizations worldwide received these grants, but nearly half of the $22.4 billion went to 1 percent of the recipients.

Internationally, health was the greatest focus for grants, with $2.2 billion going overseas for health causes. International development and disaster relief organizations received $1.2 billion. The Gates Foundation, which gave $2.6 billion internationally in 2012, has been the top international funder since 2004. The Switzerland-based World Health Organization was the top recipient of international grant dollars in 2012. Last year it received a $1.8 billion donation from the Gates Foundation, according to the recently released Million Dollar Donors Report from Coutts and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Of the $16.4 billion in domestic grant dollars in the $22.3 billion subset, the Northeast received the highest percentage, at $4.9 billion or 30 percent. The South followed closely, at $4.8 billion and 29 percent. While the West only received 22 percent or $3.6 billion, California received a total of $2.4 billion, more than any other state. “The vast majority of U.S. foundations focus their giving on the communities in which they are located,” wrote Lawrence.