Maggie Morth
Communications Manager
The Foundation Center
(212) 807-2415

Loren Renz
Senior Researcher for Special Projects
The Foundation Center
(212) 807-3601

New York, NY -- November 8, 2007. The Foundation Center has spearheaded a study, the first of its kind, that tracks the growing role of operating programs -- known as direct charitable activities -- as a part of the work of American philanthropic foundations. The report, More Than Grantmaking: A First Look at Foundations' Direct Charitable Activities, highlights the breadth of work in which foundations are engaged and sheds light on the often overlooked non-grantmaking programs of foundations. Findings are based on results of a 2007 survey of more than 900 of the nation's 3,000 largest foundations in terms of total giving.

The foundations surveyed for the report cited three main types of direct charitable activities:

  • convening conferences and other events that serve a broad audience;
  • providing technical assistance or training to grantees; and
  • supporting the service of their staff on advisory boards of other charities or public commissions.

Foundations engage in these activities mainly to promote organizational and field-wide effectiveness. The goals are to build capacity and to encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration among grantees as well as among grantmakers.

Among the report's key findings:

  • Most respondents said that this expanded role of foundations is growing: 60 percent of independent and family foundations involved in direct charitable activities increased their levels in the last five years, and 75 percent believe that this practice is becoming more widespread.
  • Large foundations are the ones most likely to operate their own programs, the findings show. Of the 684 independent and family foundations surveyed, half of those with annual giving of $10 million or more conduct direct charitable activities, compared with one quarter overall. Nearly all foundations that operate such programs (95 percent) are staffed.

"This study shows both older and newer foundations engaging in this way to increase their impact and that of their grantees or to take a leadership role in their communities," said the report's author, Loren Renz, senior researcher for special projects at the Foundation Center. "These activities represent an increasingly hands-on approach by foundations and explain in part their need for professional staff."

Examples of Direct Charitable Activities

The report offers examples of the direct charitable activities of several foundations. For instance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a health summit, developed a health diagnostics forum, supported the development of collaboration for an AIDS vaccine discovery, and facilitated a national HIV prevention initiative. The Annie E. Casey Foundation runs Casey Family Services, a program that provides a range of services to vulnerable children, and Kids Count, which collects, tracks, and disseminates data on the condition of children and families. The Marin Community Foundation operates the Philanthropy Resource Center, which helps people and businesses to successfully plan and implement philanthropic activities.

"The Foundation Center was established more than 50 years ago to create transparency in philanthropy," said Sara L. Engelhardt, president of the Foundation Center. "This study reflects a concerted effort on the part of the Center to bring greater transparency to an area that has been under-reported and not well understood."

The report can be downloaded at no charge from the Gain Knowledge area of the Center's web site.

More Than Grantmaking: A First Look at Foundations' Direct Charitable Expenses is issued under the auspices of the Foundation Center's Research Institute initiative, one of four program initiatives supported by the Center's five-year, 50th Anniversary Campaign. The Research Institute initiative is funded in part by The Wallace Foundation, which supports and shares effective ideas and practices to help institutions expand learning and enrichment opportunities. To learn more, visit the Knowledge Center at

About the Foundation Center
Established in 1956, and today supported by more than 600 foundations, the Foundation Center is the nation's leading authority on philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them to tools they can use and information they can trust. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants -- a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance philanthropy at every level. The Center's web site receives more than 54,000 visits each day, and thousands of people are served in the Center's five free regional library/learning centers and its national network of more than 340 Cooperating Collections. For more information, please visit

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