Foundations Maintained Grantmaking in 2018 Despite Falling Assets

Foundations Maintained Grantmaking in 2018 Despite Falling Assets

Foundations with less than $50 million in assets that are clients of Foundation Source, a national provider of comprehensive support services for private foundations, maintained their grantmaking levels in 2018 despite a decline in their combined assets, a report from the company finds.

Based on a survey of nearly a thousand foundations, the 2019 Annual Report on Private Foundations (22 pages, PDF) found that the sample group's asset balances totaled $4.64 billion at the end of 2018, down 3.5 percent from 2017 — a year in which their assets jumped 13.2 percent over the previous year. Small foundations with assets of less than $1 million experienced the largest drop, down 13.5 percent, while midsize foundations with assets between $1 million and $10 million saw a 6 percent drop and large foundations with assets between $10 million and $50 million recorded a 1.4 percent decline. Collectively, the foundations in the sample awarded a total of $298.7 million in grants in 2018, nearly matching the $299.3 million disbursed in 2017.

As in previous years, the foundations in the study exceeded the mandatory 5 percent distribution requirement, disbursing 7.3 percent of their assets on average for charitable purposes, down from 8.5 percent in 2017. The average distribution ratio was highest among small foundations, at 14.2 percent, down slightly from 16.5 percent in 2017, followed by 8.8 percent among midsize foundations (down from 9.1 percent) and 5.9 percent among large foundations (down from 7.4 percent). For both small and large foundations, total grant dollars awarded and average grant size fell, while midsize foundations saw increases in both categories.

The survey also found that education and human services remained the top priority issue areas among Foundation Source customers, receiving 27.7 percent and 15.6 percent, respectively, of total grant dollars awarded by the sample group. Education saw a slight decline in its share, however, down from 28.9 percent in 2017, as did health, down from 10.8 percent to 9.8 percent, and international and foreign affairs, down from 6.6 percent to 4.7 percent.

"The generosity demonstrated by these foundations is impressive," said Foundation Source chief philanthropic officer Page Snow. "Whether the year was attended by strong economic growth or not, they maintained consistent levels of giving, demonstrating their donors' unshakable commitment to philanthropy."