New Report Details How Foundations Create Change

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Foundations that operate with few or no staff are using a variety of strategies to make their grant dollars go further, according to Exponent Philanthropy’s 2016 Foundation Operations and Management Report.

Foundations that operate with few or no staff are using a variety of strategies to make their grant dollars go further, according to Exponent Philanthropy’s 2016 Foundation Operations and Management Report. Exponent Philanthropy is the nation’s largest philanthropic member association, composed of nearly 2,200 individual and organizational members across the country.

“Despite their lean operations, Exponent Philanthropy members are a powerful force for change,” said Henry L. Berman, Exponent Philanthropy’s chief executive officer. “Many are achieving ‘outsized impact,’ the result of strategies that allow each dollar granted to result in more than a single dollar’s worth of impact.”

The report identifies seven grantmaking strategies that lead to outsized impact among member foundations. Ranked by the percentage of members that engage in them, they include:

1.    Make general operating support grants 80%
2.    Make multiyear grants 68%
3.    Use information received from grantees to inform grantmaking 64%
4.    Collaborate with other funders to increase impact 61%
5.    Make capacity-building grants 58%
6.    Convene grantees or organizations 37%
7.    Make grants for advocacy work 28%

Some 85% of Exponent Philanthropy member foundations engage in two or more of these strategies to help them achieve outsized impact.

The 2016 Foundation Operations and Management Report also includes the following findings:

  •     Foundation members collectively awarded an estimated $3.7 billion in grants in 2015
  •     Foundation members pay out more than the required 5.00% every year
  •     Foundation members fund more and provide stability in tough economic times
  •     Key benchmarks for small-staffed foundation grantmaking, governance, operations, and investments

“Funders who work with few or no staff make up the vast majority of the philanthropy sector,” said Berman. “On average, a member foundation gives nearly $1.8 million per year across 40 grants but spends just 14 cents per dollar in operating costs.”

Exponent Philanthropy members support many issues, including education (79%), human services (60%), health (55%), arts & culture (50%), and environment and animals (36%). They are funding locally (86%), at the state level (42%), regionally (26%), nationally (37%), and internationally (22%).

About the Report
The 2016 Foundation Operations and Management Report is based on the 15th operations and management survey of Exponent Philanthropy’s foundation members, conducted in Q2 2015. Data are also included from Exponent Philanthropy’s 2015 Foundation Salary and Benefits Report, based on data gathered in Q1 2015.

About Exponent Philanthropy
Exponent Philanthropy is the country’s largest association of funders—nearly 2,200 members strong—and the only one dedicated to serving foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors. Our vibrant network has in common lean operations and a style of philanthropy motivated by personal passion, community needs, and the strong desire for better outcomes. We provide high-quality and cost-effective programs, resources, and connections that maximize our members’ dollars and time for the benefit of diverse communities and causes.

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Jeanne Metzger
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