NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Grants Hit Record Levels, As Foundations Try "High Impact Philanthropy"

March 27, 2001

Giving jumped by double digits for the fifth straight year last year, according to the latest annual report of the Foundation Center.

  • Foundations gave out $27.6 billion last year -- up more than 18 percent from 1999.
  • From 1995 to 1999, foundation assets nearly doubled -- to $449.6 billion from $226.7 billion.
  • In the early 1990s, grants of $10 million were a rarity -- but a big commitment is now one of more than $100 million.
  • One or two decades ago, foundations divided up their money to support small projects such as pilot studies, research reports or community-based programs -- but today they are attempting to transform entire fields through "high impact" philanthropy.

The gifts are now so large that they sometimes supplant government funding.

That doesn't sit well with some foundation activists. Catherine Cameron, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, calls the process "an unhealthy role reversal...."

Source: Tamar Lewin, "Foundation Grants Surged Last Year Despite Slowing Economy," New York Times, March 27, 2001.

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