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  Press Release


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

Elizabeth Jenkins
Media and Communications Associate
(202) 467-6134

Groundbreaking Study Finds 11 Percent of Foundation Giving Supports Social Justice


New York, N.Y., September 12, 2005—The largest U.S. foundations provide 11 percent of their grant dollars to support structural changes aiding those least well off economically, socially, and politically. According to Social Justice Grantmaking: A Report on Foundation Trends—the first-ever study to benchmark foundation giving for social justice—support spans all areas of foundation activity, from promoting economic development in distressed areas, to ensuring access to health care for disadvantaged populations, to encouraging diversity in education. The report is being released jointly by Washington, DC-based INDEPENDENT SECTOR and the New York-based Foundation Center.

"We hope that this report on social justice philanthropy will serve as a benchmark of foundation giving to social justice causes, and also increase the understanding of and interest in this vital area of philanthropy," said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of INDEPENDENT SECTOR.

"Social justice grantmaking exemplifies philanthropy aimed at systemic change, with its goal of reaching beyond specific individuals to improving the lives of whole communities of people,” noted Sara Engelhardt, president of the Foundation Center. “In a time of ever-increasing need, having more information about this type of funding is crucial."

Social Justice Grantmaking focuses on funding trends from 1998 through 2002 based on an analysis of the Foundation Center’s grants database, which includes all of the grants of $10,000 and up awarded by more than 1,000 of the nation’s largest private and community foundations. Among these funders, 749 made 13,355 grants in 2002 focused on improving the well-being of groups of disenfranchised and disadvantaged people. The report analyzes social justice giving by field, recipient type, funder and recipient location, and type of support. It also includes profiles of 26 leading social justice grantmakers. Social Justice Grantmaking was funded by the Ford Foundation.

Funders Express Views on “Social Justice Philanthropy”

A survey of 20 leading social justice grantmakers conducted in February and March 2005 found differing perspectives on the concept of social justice philanthropy. Although most of the respondents organized their grantmaking around social justice, some expressed ambivalence about the “social justice” terminology. Feeling that many Americans no longer relate to that vocabulary, several of the grantmakers have adopted more neutral and results-oriented language to describe their work. An additional, small group of respondents is moving away from both the terminology and strategies of social justice grantmaking toward a focus on helping individuals to improve their lives.

Respondents also identified numerous barriers that impede social justice grantmaking, among them the current political climate, the extent of the needs relative to resources available, and a lack of collaboration and new ideas in the field. Yet despite these deep concerns about the challenges facing social justice work, surveyed grantmakers expressed an abiding commitment to promoting equality and opportunity

INDEPENDENT SECTOR is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of approximately 500 charities, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state across the nation. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening, and mobilizing the independent sector.

The Foundation Center's mission is to strengthen the nonprofit sector by advancing knowledge about U.S. philanthropy. To achieve its mission, it collects, organizes, and communicates information on U.S. philanthropy; conducts and facilitates research on trends in the field; provides education and training on the grantseeking process; and ensures public access to information and services through its Web site, print and electronic publications, five library/learning centers, and a national network of Cooperating Collections. Founded in 1956, the Center is the nation’s leading authority on philanthropy and is dedicated to serving grantseekers, grantmakers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public.

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