Giving to Underserved Groups, for Social Justice on the Rise, Reports Find

Giving to address the needs of underserved communities has increased modestly in recent years, new reports from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy find.

According to the Philanthropic Landscape: The State of Giving to Underserved Communities (6 pages, PDF), giving by U.S. foundations to benefit economically disadvantaged people, the elderly, women and girls, and other marginalized groups increased by 7 percent over the past several years, from 33 percent between 2004 and 2006 to 40 percent between 2008 and 2010. The second report, the State of Social Justice Philanthropy (6 pages, PDF), found that since 2004 more grant dollars are being classified as social justice grants, while the number of foundations providing social justice funding at a substantial level has increased. For example, 8 percent of the foundations included in NCRP's latest sample of more than nine hundred large grantmakers awarded at least 25 percent of their funding for social justice purposes from 2008 to 2010.

The organization's research also found that one in six funders gave at least 50 percent of their grant dollars to benefit marginalized groups; funding to aid the poor increased from 20 percent to 31 percent of total giving over the reporting periods; and social justice grants as a share of total giving fell among community foundations, operating foundations, and grantmakers in Southern states, but increased among large national funders.

Topping the list of U.S. foundations that give the most to benefit marginalized communities are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. The largest social justice funders by amount included Gates ($808 million), Ford ($288 million), and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation ($118 million). The three foundations that awarded the highest percentage of their total giving to benefit underserved communities were the Weberg Trust, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, and the Melville Charitable Trust, while the Rosenberg Foundation (93 percent), Glimmer of Hope Foundation (92 percent), and Melville Charitable Trust (84 percent) were the three largest foundations that awarded the highest percentage of grant dollars for social justice.

"We're seeing slow but steady progress in a positive direction," said NCRP executive director Aaron Dorfman. "The data suggest that our nation's grantmaking foundations may be realizing that they can achieve their missions more effectively and also serve the common good by prioritizing and empowering those with the least wealth, opportunity, and power."

"More Foundations Allocating Substantial Grants that Benefit the Poor, Women and Other Underserved Communities." National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Press Release 11/15/2012.