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How does foundation giving compare to giving by individuals, corporations, or bequests?

Among a public frequently exposed to big-dollar grant announcements, foundations are sometimes thought to be the most important source of philanthropic support. However, grantmakers gave $45.9 billion in 2010, a modest portion of the $290.9 billion given by private philanthropy as a whole. Foundations are by no means the only, or even the most important, source of support for the nonprofit sector.

  • According to Giving USA, gifts from living individuals and from bequests accounted for the vast majority of giving—$234.6 billion or 81 percent in 2010.
  • Foundations and corporations contributed the remaining 19 percent or $56.3 billion.
  • Excluding the amount individuals donate to their churches or temples—which constitutes over one-third of all private giving—the share from foundations and corporations jumps to over one-fifth.
  • Between 1975 and 2010, growth in giving by independent and community foundations far outpaced increases from other sources. Non-corporate foundations' share of all private giving grew from 5.8 percent in 1975 to 14.1 percent in 2010.
  • Unlike individuals and corporate direct giving programs, most foundations have charitable endowments. Thus, their giving is more stable when the economy slumps.
Foundations continue to represent a very modest proportion of the revenue of the nonprofit sector. Still, compared with other giving sources, their importance has increased for many nonprofits.

View chart on the Distribution of Private Giving, 2010
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