Although U.S. foundations gave an estimated $46.9 billion in 2011, surpassing the $46.8 billion pre-recession peak of 2008, giving by the nation's more than 76,000 foundations, after accounting for inflation, was down slightly from the previous year, a new report from the Foundation Center finds.
Based on a survey of 1,077 large and mid-size foundations, the 2012 edition of Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates (4 pages, PDF) found that more than a third of respondents reduced their giving last year. Indeed, if the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were excluded from the total, 2011 giving would have been down roughly 3 percent, after accounting for inflation.
The annual estimates report also found that independent and family foundations, which represent the vast majority of private foundations, increased their charitable contributions by less than 2 percent, before adjusting for inflation, to $33.1 billion; that giving by corporate foundations rose 6 percent, to $5.2 billion; and that community foundations reduced their giving slightly, to $4.2 billion.
The report predicts that foundation giving will grow between 1 percent and 3 percent in 2012 and will continue to grow modestly in 2013. But with inflation averaging just under 3 percent, foundation giving levels are likely to remain unchanged, at best. "Foundations would like to ramp up giving," said Foundation Center president Bradford K. Smith, "but that is unlikely to happen absent consistent economic growth."