Giving in the News: Community Foundations Fare Relatively Well During Recession, Report Says

Community foundations increased their giving in 2008, bucking the belt tightening that swept nearly all quarters of the philanthropic world, according to a new report by the Foundation Center.

More than 700 community foundations gave $4.6-billion last year, a 2.7 percent increase when adjusted for inflation. The increase outpaced the rate of growth reported by independent and corporate foundations and, for the first time on record, community foundations gave more money than corporate grant makers, the report said.

But with the country mired in the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, community foundations probably will not be able to maintain their level of generosity this year, according to the study. Nearly three-quarters of foundations surveyed said they anticipated giving less in 2009.

Still, community foundations are better positioned than some grant makers. A flurry of new donors and bequests, as well as strong increases in their asset values, have buoyed community foundations in recent years, according to the report.

What’s more, the sour economy may cause some philanthropists to scrap plans to set up separate, endowed institutions, which are expensive to operate, and instead create donor-advised funds with community foundations, the report said.

10% of Foundation Grants

The grant-making clout of community foundations exceeds their number, the study found. Community foundations accounted for 1 percent of the total number of grant makers in 2007, according to the report, but their giving made up 10 percent of all foundation grant dollars.

Like other types of foundations, they were more likely to support groups that help children and poor people than charities working in other fields.

Community foundations were more inclined, meanwhile, to provide general support than were other types of grant makers, the report said.

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  By Caroline Preston.  A free copy of the report can be downloaded from the Foundation Center’s Web site

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