USC Price School of Public Policy

Growth in California Philanthropy Outpaces the Nation

Growth in California Philanthropy Outpaces the Nation

By Merrill Balassone

James Ferris James M. Ferris, director of the USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy

Philanthropic giving by California’s foundations jumped from $2.8 billion to $6 billion over the past decade despite two economic recessions during that period, a new USC analysis announced today shows.

Those numbers, adjusted for inflation, represent a 55 percent increase in giving from 1999 to 2009. Foundation giving nationwide increased 52.5 percent during that period, according to the report by the USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy based at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

The number of foundations based in California also soared from 4,208 in 1999 to 7,184 in 2009.

“The foundation community is operating at a scale that is greater than it was a decade ago and significantly more so than 20 years ago,” said James M. Ferris, director of the USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy and holder of the Emery Evans Olson Chair in Nonprofit Entrepreneurship and Public Policy at USC Price.

California’s growth in the foundation sector continues to outpace the nation in all areas studied – the total number of foundations, their assets and total giving.

More than 13.1 percent of all foundation giving in the United States in 2009 came from California foundations, up from 12.4 percent in 1999, according to the report.

Education also surpassed health as the top funding priority during the decade, with dollars for education grant-making rising from 17.1 percent to 24.1 percent of total giving.

The report also found that a growing number of small foundations (those with less than $1 million in assets) now account for an increasing share of total foundation giving in California.

These small foundations collectively hold just 1 percent of the state’s total foundation assets but in 2009 accounted for 11 percent of total giving, double that from a decade earlier.

“The new foundations have created a footprint that suggests that the foundation sector will continue to grow over the longer term,” Ferris said.

The report, “California Foundations: Growth Amid Adversity,” includes a chart ranking the state’s top 100 foundations both by financial assets and total giving.

The analysis builds on the USC center’s 2001 landmark report that analyzed the state’s foundation community in the context of national trends and patterns.

Hilary J. Harmssen, founder and principal of Axio Policy Research and Consulting, was co-author of the report.