Giving Increases 24.5% in 2015 among Private Foundations Under $50M

Categories: Press Releases

Foundation Source releases snapshot of private foundation grantmaking behavior

FAIRFIELD, CT—April 7, 2016—Foundation Source, the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive services for private foundations, today released findings on 2015 grantmaking activity by its clients, showing that giving in total dollars climbed 24.5% in 2015 over the prior year.

These findings are based on the actual transactional data of 831 of Foundation Source’s more than 1,200 clients—not a survey or poll. All of the foundations in the sample have assets of less than $50M, a size that is representative of 98% of all the private foundations in the U.S.

Noteworthy findings include:

  1. OVERALL GIVING INCREASED: Private foundations granted 24.5% more in 2015 than in 2014 (see Chart 1). Much of this increase is attributable to foundations in the $1–10 million range, which granted a staggering 51.7% more in 2015 than the year prior. This growth likely reflects increases in assets driven by strong 2014 market performance.
  2. FOUNDATIONS DISTRIBUTED 7.4%, ON PAR WITH 2014 LEVELS: Private foundations are required to distribute 5% of their net average assets from the previous year. In 2015, these foundations far exceeded their 5% minimum distribution requirement (see Chart 2). Foundations with less than $1M in assets distributed 11.9%, foundations in the $1M – $10M range paid out 8.5%; the largest foundations, those between $10M – $50M, paid out 6.4%.
  3. END-OF-YEAR GIVING EXCEEDED THAT OF 2014: Private foundations often do the bulk of their annual grantmaking in November and December, but this level of seasonal activity was higher in 2015 than usual (see Chart 3). In 2015, 25% of all grantmaking for the year occurred in December, whereas the year prior, that percentage was only 19%.
  4. AREAS OF GIVING: As grantmaking priorities shifted in 2015, Human Services and Public & Societal Benefit saw increased support, whereas funding to Education, as well as Arts, Culture & Humanities decreased (see Chart 4).

 According to Chief Executive Officer Robert Chartener, “2015 was a strong year for foundation giving as we saw significantly higher grantmaking levels than in 2014. Given the robust performance of U.S. equity and fixed income markets in 2014, we had expected to see an uptick in giving in the following year, but an average increase of more than 50% among some of our clients was even higher than we might have predicted.”

These findings are based on the actual grantmaking transactions of 831 private foundations, a sample of Foundation Source’s more than 1,200 clients. Of this sample population, 352 foundations had net assets of less than $1M, 378 had $1M – $10M in net assets, and 101 had $10M – $50M in net assets.

About Foundation Source (

Foundation Source is the nation’s largest provider of comprehensive support services for private foundations. The company’s administrative services, online foundation management tools, and philanthropic advisory services provide a complete outsourced solution, including the creation of new foundations. Now in its second decade, Foundation Source provides its services to more than 1,200 family, corporate, and professionally staffed foundations, of all sizes, nationwide. The company works in partnership with wealth management firms, law firms, and accounting firms, as well as directly with individuals and families. Foundation Source is headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, with offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, South Florida, and Washington, D.C.