Elementary! Foundation Giving Clues to Be Found in Giving USA 2013

On June 18, the Giving Institute will release Giving USA 2013, an annual report looking at the philanthropy for 2012.  While prior performance is no indicator of future success (or challenge), there are clues to be gleaned about the world of foundation philanthropy.  Top of mind for me are three key questions.

  1. Did foundation giving increase?  This one is pretty obvious   But the 2012 number is pretty significant.  Many foundations reported (via survey or anecdotally)  that their portfolios continued to recover in 2012.   Prior to the recession (2009), foundation giving was on average higher than the requisite 5% payout.  During the recessionary years, the number fell back closer to the 5% mark.  Are foundations building nest eggs as a hedge against another downturn?  An overall lower increase in aggregate giving may suggest this is the case and that a return to the liquid, pre-2007 days may yet be another year away.
  2. Where did the money go?  Increasingly, year after year, a greater percentage of foundation dollars is going to international philanthropic endevours.  Did this number increase again in 2012?  While the aggregate number may be small compared to overall domestic US giving, an uptick may signal that while foundations are thinking locally, they continue to act more globally.
  3. Where did the money go, sector-wise?   Giving to human service and relief organizations increased during the recession at the expense of foundation support for the arts and education.  I am pretty keen to know if those numbers rebounded since it may mean that foundations are broadening their portfolios again.

While these numbers are no guaranteed harbingers of foundation performance in 2013, they may provide some valuable clues as we set fundraising expectations and plot our strategy for the remainder of the year.  Stay tuned.  I will come back to this topic shortly to dissect the numbers and see what we can learn . . . and to ask your feedback!


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