Council on Foundations – New study tracks US foundation giving trends

A study released in November by the Foundation Center, in cooperation with the Council on Foundations, finds that US foundation giving for international purposes has risen significantly in the period 1998-2003.

Based on a sample of more than 1,000 of the largest US foundations and corporate grantmakers, the study, International Grantmaking III: An Update on US Foundation Trends, estimates that total international giving rose from $1.6 billion in 1998 to $3.3 billion in 2001, then fell slightly in 2002 to around $3.2 billion and again in 2003 to $3 billion, owing to the economic downturn. Even so, adjusted for inflation, this represents an increase of 79 per cent from 1998 through 2002, far more than the 42 per cent rise in overall foundation giving during this period.

The emergence of several large new international funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Foundation and the Gordon E and Betty I Moore Foundation is the main cause of this growth, but they do not account for the entire increase. Both the number of grantmakers giving internationally and the amounts they give rose in the period. But most striking is the 360 per cent rise in international grantmaking by US community foundations. Funding to all geographic regions increased, especially to Eastern Europe, Russia and the Independent States, but with Asia and the Pacific Region continuing to receive the largest share of overseas grants in 2002 (23 per cent).

The most rapid growth, in terms of programme areas, was in funding for health and family planning, surpassing international development and relief as the sector receiving the largest share of international grant dollars in 2002 (32 per cent). While all funding areas grew, civil society, the environment, science and technology, and religion experienced particularly strong growth.

The full report includes additional analysis and exploration of trends plus the results of an international grantmaker survey conducted in 2004.

International Grantmaking III may be purchased from the publications section of the Council’s website at or from the Foundation Center (

This column was written by Rob Buchanan, Director, International Programs, Council on Foundations. He can be contacted at

Council on Foundations
Tel +1 202 466 6512
Fax +1 202 785 3926

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