Foundation Grantmaking over the Economic Cycle

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American grantmaking foundations must pay out a minimum of 5 percent of their investment assets each year for charitable purposes, and they are penalized for dropping below a five-year average rate with a higher excise tax. These rules, combined with many foundations’ tendency to simply pay out at a fairly constant rate, tend to make foundation grantmaking procyclical: payouts decline during economic downturns. This brief covers a conference discussion on whether grantmaking might productively be made more countercyclical and examines changes in foundation grantmaking between 1997 and 2010, largely based on National Center for Charitable Statistics data.

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March 2015

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Nathan Dietz, Brice McKeever, Ellen Steele, C. Eugene Steuerle



Grants Management
Grantmaking and Changemaking

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