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FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Foundation Source, the nation’s largest provider of support services for private foundations, today releases the results of its survey, “2020: The Year That Changed Everything – How Private Foundations are Meeting this Moment.” Additionally, the firm announces data regarding the actual grantmaking behavior of its foundation clients in the second quarter (Q2) of 2020 compared to that of 2019. Both sources reveal substantially increased giving in 2020 and significant changes in how foundations are giving.

“Given the extraordinary challenges of 2020 – COVID-19, high unemployment, social turmoil – the entire philanthropic community is under pressure to do more with finite resources,” said Susan Friedlander Calzone, chief executive officer of Foundation Source. “Private foundations have been meeting the challenges head-on; they’ve adapted their strategies and are doing new and amazing things with their philanthropy.”

The Foundation Source report is based on survey responses from 105 of the firm’s 1,670 private non-operating foundation clients.  Key findings include:

  • 39% of respondents have shifted their foundation’s mission since the start of 2020. They did so primarily due to COVID-19 and the increased need of nonprofit organizations.
  • 42% have increased the dollar amount of their grantmaking since the start of 2020, and the same percentage expect to do so in the remainder of the year. In addition to COVID-19 and the increased need of nonprofits, respondents cited social injustice concerns as factors in their decision.
  • Although making grants to publicly supported charities will always be the cornerstone of foundation giving, some respondents employed, for the first time, other philanthropic capabilities: 15% granted directly to individuals (versus to nonprofits); 11% awarded scholarships; and 11% engaged in direct charitable activities (e.g., distributing clothes to people in need) without the aid of a nonprofit.
  • While 86% said they will continue to solely grant to nonprofits for the remainder of 2020, 14% plan to give in other ways: 8% via granting to individuals; 4% by awarding scholarships; 5% by engaging in direct charitable activities; and 3% via making program-related investments such as a loan.

Additionally, Foundation Source Q2 2020 grantmaking data for all clients reveals, when comparing its clients’ giving in March-June 2020 to that of March-June 2019, a 45% increase in the total dollar amount granted and a 2% increase in the total number of grants issued. “Our clients’ generosity is truly inspiring,” Calzone said. “While the number of grants they made increased modestly, the value of those grants spiked considerably in this time of heightened need.”

The Q2 2020 data also confirms clients’ willingness to try new things to achieve optimal impact with their philanthropy. In particular, granting directly to individuals, a giving capability unique to private foundations, jumped almost 900%. “We’ve been very impressed with our clients’ dedication to making the most of their giving this year – and beyond,” Calzone said. “For some of the foundations, 2020 has been a ‘call to action’ that has altered their grantmaking not only to address immediate hardships but to ensure funds are deployed as effectively as possible over the long term as well.”

Survey Methodology 

The findings in the Foundation Source report are based on the survey responses from 105 of the firm’s 1,670 private non-operating foundation clients. The clients voluntarily participated in the survey from Aug. 5-19, 2020.

About Foundation Source (

Foundation Source is the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive support services for private foundations. Our complete outsourced solution includes foundation creation (as needed), administrative support, active compliance monitoring, philanthropic advisory, tax and legal expertise, and online foundation management tools.

Now in our third decade, Foundation Source provides its services to more than 1,700 family, corporate, and professionally staffed foundations, of all sizes, nationwide. We work in partnership with wealth management firms, law firms, accounting firms, and family offices as well as directly with individuals and families. Foundation Source is headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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