The chatter over the past couple of years was nothing new. The Great Recession would hit international grantmaking by U.S. foundations especially hard. Before that it was post-9/11 regulations on overseas giving that would cause lasting harm.
Meanwhile, the Foundation Center’s new International Grantmaking Update report, produced in cooperation with the Council on Foundations, shows that international funding by the nation’s foundations grew steadily from 2003 to 2008. For 2009, when overall foundation giving dropped by an estimated 8.4 percent, support for U.S.-based international programs and cross-border recipients declined by about half that rate (4 percent).
Did the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation single-handedly save the day last year? Their grant dollars certainly helped. If you take out the Gates Foundation, both international and overall giving by foundations would have dropped by an estimated 9 percent in 2009. But what this really means is that the thousands of other international funders did not decide suddenly that global priorities had ceased to be important.
These findings clearly show that international grantmaking is not a luxury of prosperous times for the many funders that choose to engage in this work. Moreover, from health and economic development to human rights to the environment, the challenges facing the global community will ultimately have an impact at home—and we all know that the impact is being felt more quickly with each passing year.
What do you think: should international grantmakers have directed a larger share of their giving to domestic needs during the downturn?
Steven Lawrence is the director of research for the Foundation Center