Maximizing the Value of Philanthropic Efforts through Planned Partnerships between the U.S. Government and Private Foundations. Data

05/01/2009

No single source provides comprehensive and relevant data on domestic and international spending for foundations and USG. Therefore, three different sources were used to estimate funding levels (Table A.1). Data from the Foundation Center were used to estimate both international and domestic spending by U.S.-based foundations. Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and from the Federal Assistance Award Data System (FAADS) were used to estimate international USG spending and domestic USG spending, respectively.[2]

TABLE A.1:
DATA SOURCES SELECTED FOR OVERVIEW OF FOUNDATION AND USG PHILANTHROPIC SPENDING
  International Domestic
Foundations Foundation Center Grants Database Foundation Center Grants Database
USG Official Development Aid (ODA) data, compiled by OECDs Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Federal Assistance Award Data System (FAADS)

For domestic and international spending, data were broken into six domains or sectors: (1) development,[3] (2) education, (3) environment, (4) health, (5) human services, and (6) relief. Funding outside of these domains was excluded from the estimates. Funding levels are presented for several recent years: 2002, 2004, and 2006the most recent year for which data are available. For international funding, data were also broken out by geographic region, using the World Banks regional grouping.

Through literature searches and conversations with experts, we identified each of these sources as containing the most comprehensive and relevant information about USG and foundation philanthropic spending. Although these data represent the best publicly available information to characterize foundation and USG philanthropic spending, several limitations are important to note:

  • The Foundation Center data include all grants of more than $10,000 made by the 800 largest foundations (as measured by annual giving) and a few hundred smaller foundations. The Foundation Center estimates that these grants represent roughly half of all foundation spending each year. The distribution of large grants by the largest foundations reported here may differ somewhat from that of smaller grants and foundations.
  • A small but unknown fraction of the grants listed in the Foundation Center grants database are classified by the recipient organizations sector and geographic location rather than the sector and location of the actual programming funded by the grant. Hence there is some misclassification of foundation spending.
  • Whereas Foundation Center international spending data include spending in all countries outside the United States, OECD data include only USG international spending on developing countries. To maximize comparability, we have included only spending in developing countries for the presentation of foundation regional spending (MPR obtained spending data for foundations at the country level). Thus the regional presentation of spending is consistent for both USG and foundations. However, for foundation total international spending and spending by sector, we have included spending in all countries because some spending classified as occurring in developed countries actually aims to benefit developing countries (such as grants to the World Health Organization [WHO] for research on tropical diseases).

Thus, differences between foundation, USG international, and USG domestic spending reported in this memo reflect (1) differences in actual spending and (2) differences in how each data source collects information, defines and categorizes spending, and reports the information. This conflation between actual and reported spending means that although our data sources are the best available, the estimates we present imprecisely answer the research questions posed above. Despite this limitation, we are confident that the data and approaches we have used provide useful (and heretofore unavailable) contextual information.

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