U.S. Community Foundations Boost International Giving, Study Finds

International grantmaking is becoming more common among U.S. community foundations, which traditionally make grants in locally-bound geographic communities, a report from the Council on Foundations and Foundation Center finds.

The report, Local Communities With Global Reach: International Giving by U.S. Community Foundations, includes an analysis of international giving by U.S. community foundations. Using Foundation Center data on a thousand of the largest U.S. foundations, the study found that between 2010 and 2014 a total of 10,533 grants totaling $697 million were awarded to international organizations by U.S. community foundations. The report also found that from 2011 to 2014, grant dollars awarded by large community foundations for international programs more than doubled, to $223 million from $103 million, while the average grant size increased by 78 percent.

According to the report, the first ever to detail international giving by U.S. community foundations, 85 percent of community foundations made at least one international grant in 2014, compared with 67 percent in 2002. Typically, those grants were made from donor- or corporate-advised funds and supporting organizations. The report, which features case studies of five U.S. community foundations engaging globally, also found that 89 percent of this giving was channeled via U.S.-based grantees working overseas, with only 8 percent awarded directly to organizations in the country of implementation.

"This report highlights something that few are aware of, that community foundations are increasingly stewarding local philanthropy towards international activities," said Council on Foundations president and CEO Vikki Spruill. "This presents an enormous opportunity for cross-border collaboration between community foundations and local organizations building stronger communities around the world."

"The growth of community foundations in the U.S. over the past twenty years has been significant, less in sheer numbers than in the breath of missions, definitions of community, and imagination," said Barry Gaberman, a former Ford Foundation executive and contributor to the report. "International giving is one manifestation of these phenomena, and now we have a report that captures the scale and the reasons behind this giving."