Earlier this week, the largest foundation in the Carolinas announced that it had awarded more than $56 million in grants to 185 organizations during 2009last year, including $12.5 million to Duke University, nearly $2 million to the university's Center for Child and Family Policy, and $1 million to its the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke. In 2008, the endowment awarded nearly 400 four hundred grants totaling more than $204 million, including $50 million to the Duke University School of Medicine.
According to endowment president Gene Cochrane, weak financial markets affected the number of projects the endowment could fund. While its assets had grown steadily prior to the economic downturn, they lost approximately a third of their value by the end of 2008. As the markets have slowly recovered, the endowment has recouped about 10 percent of its losses.
To cope with the decline in assets, the endowment reduced the total number of grants it awarded in 2009 while keeping the average grant size at roughly the same level. "Once you accept a project, you have two strategies you can follow," Cochrane said. "You could cut every project back some or fund fewer projects. But once you invest in something, you really don't want to cut it back. So generally speaking, we haven't."