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Growth in the number of potential funders is good news for nonprofit organizations operating in the United States of America. Grant-making foundations are far more numerous than they were two decades ago – as are the nonprofits that compete for their philanthropic attentions.


This post examines trends in the numbers of foundations making grants to the Nation’s 1.6 million federally registered nonprofit organizations.


A Census of Foundations:

The Foundation Center’s FCStats database reports that:

  • In 1991, out of 33,356 grant-making foundations, 29,476 were independent, 1,775 were corporate, 1,770 were operating, and 335 were community.
  • In 2001, out of 61,810 grant-making foundations, 55,120 were independent, 2,170 were corporate, 3,918 were operating, and 602 were community.
  • In 2010 (the latest year available), out of 76,610 grant-making foundations, 68,992 were independent, 2,718 were corporate, 4,166 were operating, and 734 were community.


Growth Trends:

From 1991 to 2010, the total number of grant-making foundations is up 129.7%. The numbers of three types of foundations more than doubled —Independent foundations are up 134.1%; operating foundations are up 135.3%; and community foundations are up 119.1%. The number of corporate foundations is up by only 53.1% during the same period.


Year Total Independent Corporate Operating Community
1991 33,356 29,476 1,775 1,770 335
2001 61,810 55,120 2,170 3,918 602
2010 76,610 68,992 2,718 4,166 734


Later posts will explore trends in the distribution of grant-making foundations by type and trends in the distribution of grant-making foundations by their shares of total annual giving.


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