California’s nonprofit, charitable foundations boomed both in number and assets between 1999 and 2009, according to a new study by the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

The study, a followup to one done in 2001, concludes that during the 10-year period, the number of foundations in California grew by 71 percent, topping 7,100, contributions to them more than doubled to $6 billion, and foundation assets grew by more than one-third to $93.3 billion. After adjustment for inflation, however, contributions increased by 55 percent and assets by 2.6 percent.

The state’s deteriorating economy late in the decade took its toll on foundation growth, however.

“While the number of foundations grew throughout the period,” the study says, “the robust growth in 2000 and 2001 gave way to a tapering off by the end of the period. On the other hand, foundation giving and assets exhibited peaks and valleys over the 10 years with the swings in assets more pronounced than the swings in giving.”

Growth in the number of California foundations, contributions and assets all outpaced national trends during the 10-year period. There are 14 California foundations with assets over $1 billion, up from nine in 1999. They account for 52 percent of all assets and 53 percent of all foundation giving.

Speaking of which, giving by California foundations also has gone up and down during the decade, peaking in 2008 at $4.9 billion, just before a severe recession struck the state.

The thrust of foundation grant-making has also changed. Health care was the largest single category of giving in 1999 but by 2009 education had emerged as the foundations’ top priority, garnering nearly a quarter of all grant money.

The J. Paul Getty Trust, endowed by the late Los Angeles oilman, is California’s wealthiest foundation with $9.3 billion in assets, but when it comes to spending, Getty was fairly stingy at just $14.8 million in 2009.

The second biggest foundation at $6.9 billion, named for computer pioneer William Hewlett and his wife, Flora, was the biggest spender at $342.5 million. It was followed by the Genentech Access to Care Foundation at $292 million and a $5.9 billion foundation endowed by Hewlett’s partner, David Packard, and his wife, Lucille, at $282.8 million.

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.


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