May 22, 2013; National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy

There is no doubt that our work would be more fluid if our supporters would realize that we almost always need operating income more than special project grants and it would help to have some year-to-year security in the form of multi-year grants. A recent send-out by  addresses the state of both types of funding, and it contains both good and bad news.

In a paper that breaks this issue down by geography, and even to some extent by individual foundations, NCRP has found that foundations gave 83% more operating grants in 2011 than they did in any of the years between 2008 and 2010. They found that 22% of grantmakers gave at least 50% of their grants to cover core costs in 2011. Additionally, they found that Family foundations, Southern foundations and funders giving between $5–10 million were the most likely to provide general operating support.

On the other hand, multi-year grant dollars are generally on the decrease unless you happen to be a Gates grantee. In 2008, $6.9 billion was given in multi-year grants, and this comprised 44 percent of all authorized grant dollars. In 2009, multi-year funding declined to $5.5 billion, or 25 percent, of grant dollars and though multi-year support was estimated at $7.2 billion in 2011—then 29 percent of grant dollars—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was the source of 60 percent of that money.—Ruth McCambridge