July 1, 2010; Source: Financial Times | A survey of foundations by Commonfund Institute had mixed messages for nonprofits. In the overall survey of 173 foundations, annual investment returns were up in 2009, showing a 20.0 percent return after a 26 percent decline in 2008. In a reversal of a norm, the largest foundations exhibited the smallest gains, according to the study, because of investments in alternative assets. Still, despite last year’s gains, foundation assets are at 89 percent of what they were valued at the end of 2007. The study also looked particularly at giving to 43 community foundations and 66 charities. Among the community foundations surveyed, “55 per cent reported a decrease in giving in 2009, while 16 per cent reported an increase. In 2008, 61 percent reported decreases and 31 per cent reported increases.” Overall, the decreases outpaced the increases at community foundations and at charities. The median decrease at community foundations was 21.4 per cent, while the median increase was 15.9 per cent. Of the operating charities that were surveyed, the median decrease in giving was 34.3 per cent, more than twice the median increase of 16 per cent.—Ruth McCambridge