New Survey Indicates L.A. Philanthropic Foundations Are Uncertain about Future

A majority of foundations surveyed expect on average a 24 percent decrease in giving, according to study by the USC-based Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy

Jim Ferris

Most Los Angeles philanthropic foundations predict a decrease in donations due to economic contractions and uncertainty about the future, according to a survey conducted by The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at USC. However, survey results indicated that a handful of foundations anticipate a significant increase in giving due to new gifts or planned initiatives for 2009.

James M. Ferris, director of The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy, said that most foundations have been working to keep faith with their mission and their grantees at the same time they are striving to be prudent fiscal stewards of their foundations.

“There still remains much uncertainty about what the future holds,” said Ferris. “There isn’t much optimism that asset levels will be able to rebound in the near future. Almost a third of the foundations we surveyed indicated they are willing to consider new strategies in their work.”

A total of 24 Los Angeles foundations responded to the survey, which was distributed in summer 2009. These respondents account for almost 50 percent of giving in Los Angeles and 39.7 percent of the assets from Los Angeles Foundations in 2007. Among the report’s key findings:

  • A majority of foundations anticipate a decrease (15 out of 21) in giving from 2008 to 2009, with an average decline of 24%. Six foundations expect an increase in giving from 2008 to 2009, some significantly so due to new gifts or planned initiatives for 2009. The net impact is an average increase in giving of 4% from 2008 to 2009 for all responding foundations.
  • Giving is expected to decrease from 2009 to 2010 by roughly 13%. Of the 18 who responded to this question, three expected to increase giving, three expected giving to remain the same, and 12 expect giving to decrease.
  • There remains considerable uncertainty about 2011 and beyond. Nine foundations simply do not know what will happen. For those who are willing to make an estimate, four of the foundations anticipate that their grantmaking dollars for 2011 will be greater than 2010, eight are suggesting that they will be the same as 2010, and two believe that they will be lower.

Los Angeles is one of the country’s main centers for philanthropic foundations. Los Angeles is home to 2,412 foundations with assets totaling $39.8 billion and total giving approaching $2 billion, as of 2007.

The survey findings – “Prospects For Foundation Philanthropy In Los Angeles During Uncertain Times” – provides a resource for foundations, nonprofit organizations, and all those interested in foundation responses to the current economic climate. It is available on The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy Web site at:

Photo by Philip Channing