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How to Leverage Institutional Giving to Your Advantage

While donations from individuals make up the majority of philanthropic giving in the United States (69% in 2019 and 79% if bequests are included), institutional giving plays a significant role in the philanthropic landscape.

What is institutional giving? Institutional giving includes private, community, and family foundations, as well as corporations. Foundations generally provide support through a competitive grants process. Corporations may make philanthropic gifts (usually through a grants process) or sponsorships (which are not purely philanthropic and, therefore, not entirely tax-deductible).

While the current coronavirus pandemic, economic downturn, upcoming election, and social unrest have contributed to great uncertainty, an analysis of the most recent data available can help to highlight possible ways to augment institutional giving going forward.

Between 2005-2015, the number of foundations increased by 21%, and the amount of assets increased 62% over the same time.[1] Giving by foundations has consistently grown in the last 15 years. In 2019, foundation giving increased by 2.5 percent to almost $76 billion, reaching its highest-ever dollar amount. Nonprofits should be aware, however, that while the size of foundation grants has increased, the number of grants awarded has decreased. As a result, nonprofits are vying for larger awards in a more competitive environment than in the past.

Family foundations tend to focus the specific interests of the family members, often with a geographic focus. Newer foundations are more likely to offer impact investments as a philanthropic strategy. In the last decade, more limited-life foundations have been created. In fact, 19% of those foundations created between 2010-2014 are intended to “spend-down” with a definite end point.

Like family foundations, community foundations are flourishing. Over the last 10 years, they have doubled their assets, gifts, and grants. Ranked by assets, the Chicago Community Trust is the fourth top community foundation in the country. In 2017, the Trust had $2.8 billion in assets, received $383.7 million in gifts, and gave $309 million in grants.[2]

According to Giving USA, in 2019, corporations increased charitable giving by 13.4% to just over $21 billion. This solid growth reflects changes in corporate pre-tax dollars and the increase in gross domestic product. Like foundations, corporate grantmakers are focusing their efforts by increasing support to fewer organizations. The number of corporate grants dropped by 22% between 2015 and 2017, but the median amount has increased. The sectors of education and health services benefited most from corporate giving. From 2015 to 2017, corporate giving to disaster relief increased by over 300%.[4] The coronavirus pandemic is currently driving corporate giving.

Putting together strategies to connect with and build relationships with people at philanthropic institutions is an important part of any development plan. Leveraging these insights into areas of greatest potential while aligning with your priorities can help any organization meet their funding goals, even amidst a pandemic.

[1]Gilded Giving, Institute for Policy Studies, 2018.

[2] Gilded Giving, Institute for Policy Studies, 2018.

[3] Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape, 9th edition, CSS Fundraising, 2020,

[4] Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape, 8th edition, CSS Fundraising, 2019,

[5] Giving USA: Evolution of Workplace Giving, The Giving Institute, 2018.


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