COF members aim to meet needs despite asset declines

Nearly three-quarters of Council on Foundations (COF) members surveyed in March this year experienced asset declines of 25 per cent or more in 2008 and two-thirds reported a further 10 per cent drop in early 2009. A total of 430 foundations responded, including community foundations and family, independent and corporate grantmakers in 45 states. Family and independent foundations saw the largest declines. As a result, 62 per cent of foundations responding to the survey are reducing their grantmaking in 2009, but 38 per cent plan to maintain or increase it.

The data suggests that some foundations experiencing substantial erosion of their endowments nevertheless plan to maintain or increase their grantmaking this year in response to urgent needs caused by the downturn. Overall, 92 per cent of foundations responding reported that their grantmaking will directly or indirectly aid families, provide human services, assist low-income populations, or support economic development. Of these, 72 per cent are collaborating with other funders, 55 per cent are convening funder-non-profit meetings to develop aid strategies and 46 per cent are assisting non-profits to improve coordination of their assistance. Eighty-three per cent reported providing operating support for non-profits.

About 21 per cent of foundations indicated that they will be making grants internationally in 2009 that provide either direct or indirect assistance to economically disadvantaged populations. Over 80 per cent of these plan to maintain, increase or add new grantmaking in this area compared with 2008.

The survey also indicates that a majority of foundations (60 per cent) are taking a variety of internal measures to cut administrative expenses: reducing staff travel budgets (61 per cent), reducing or eliminating the use of consultants (52 per cent), eliminating staff salary increases (45 per cent), instituting a hiring freeze (27 per cent) and laying off staff (6 per cent).

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Contact International Programs Managing Director Rob Buchanan at or visit

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