A recent report by the Foundation Center and the Council on Foundations estimates that giving by US foundations for international purposes reached a record $3.8 billion in 2005. This increase represented a nearly 12 per cent inflation-adjusted gain over 2002. What is most surprising is that the increase in international giving far surpasses the 2 per cent rise in giving for all purposes during the same period. The study is based on a sample of 1,172 larger US foundations and more than 126,000 grants of $10,000 or more in the Foundation Center’s database.
International giving by sampled funders grew faster than overall giving across all foundation types, with community foundations reporting the fastest growth in international grant dollars. Expenditure on health claimed the largest share at 49 per cent, rising from just under 32 per cent in 2002, an increase mainly due to exceptionally large grants, notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s strong support for global health initiatives.
The largest share of the direct international grants went to European organizations (32 per cent), though over half of this (nearly 18 per cent) went to global programmes. Sub-Saharan Africa received 19 per cent, the Asia Pacific region 18 per cent, and Latin America 11 per cent.
Another striking finding is that, between 2002 and 2004, direct giving to organizations in other countries declined by 3 per cent, while grants to US-based international and global programmes increased by 49 per cent. This reflects both the growing engagement of US grantmakers in international activities and greater caution about direct funding of foreign organizations because of the US Government’s emphasis on fighting terrorism. The Treasury Department issued updated Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines in September. While the new version is a significant improvement over earlier ones, the Council believes they add little to existing requirements for safeguarding charitable assets. Moreover, the Guidelines are discouraging some responsible international philanthropy at a time when it is urgently needed.