Growth in the Number of Foundations

by Teri Behrens

Drawing on our local, national, and international research, tool development, training, and data work, leaders from the Johnson Center have identified 11 key trends that will impact the work of both grantmakers or nonprofit leaders in the months and years to come.

In this piece, we explore one of those trends in depth: Growth in the Number of Foundations.

Download and read the full report, featuring all 11 trends, here.

11 Trends for 2017The U.S. has seen significant growth in the number of foundations over the past decade, from 67,736 in 2004 to 86,726 in 2014. Independent foundations have been one driver of this change, with 33% growth over this time period (60,031 in 2004 vs. 79,729 in 2014). There is some evidence that family foundations and health conversion foundations (formed when a nonprofit healthcare organization is purchased by a for-profit company) are a big part of this increase. The National Center for Family Philanthropy found that 70% of the 40,000 plus family foundations in the U.S. as of 2013 had been created since 1990. Based on Form 990 filings,1 we know that there were 306 conversion foundations in 2010, while in 2000, Grantmakers in Health had identified 165 such foundations.

This growth in foundations creates an increased need for training and professional development for boards and staff at all levels. We know that most people come into philanthropy from other sectors.2 The Institute for Foundation and Donor Learning is responding to this need in several ways. LearnPhilanthropy.org will be hosting a series of online courses in basic grantmaking skills for those new to that role. In collaboration with Philanthropy New York, we’ve created a five-module course for people in any role, including board members, to learn about the history, ethics, and legal and organizational context of philanthropy. In 2017, we’ll be debuting versions of Grantmaking School courses tailored for family foundations. Of course, The Foundation Review is a valuable resource for anyone in the field, regardless of tenure or type of foundation.

1Easterling, D., Smart, A., and McDuffee, L. (2016) Philanthropy, Health Systems and Community Health Improvement. In Cutts, T. and Chochrane, J.R., Editors, Stakeholder Health: Insights from New Systems of Health. USA: Stakeholder Health Press, pp. 149–166.
2See, for example, Branch, Renée B.; Moody, Michael P.; Marx Smock, Sue; and Bransford, Donna N. (2010) “Who Becomes a Foundation CEO? An Analysis of Hiring Patterns, 2004–2008,” The Foundation Review: Vol. 2: Iss. 2, Article 7.

Teri Behrens

Teresa (Teri) Behrens, Ph.D., is the director of the Institute for Foundation and Donor Learning. The Institute for Foundation and Donor Learning provides professional development resources for donors, foundation staff and those who work with them to implement programs. She is also editor in chief for The Foundation Review, published quarterly by the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.

Learn more about Teri.

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