The Foundation Center's New Report on Social Justice Philanthropy

As its title suggests, “Diminishing Dollars: The Impact of the 2008 Financial Crisis on the Field of Social Justice Philanthropy” explains the effect of the economic crisis on the US philanthropic community, a community which includes The Overbrook Foundation. This Foundation Center publication projects that foundations supporting social justice will only be able to return to 2008 funding levels in 2015. After polling several foundations, the Foundation Center found that small foundations (with less than $50 million in assets) struggled most to recover from the crisis and that they experienced a greater decrease in grantmaking dollars than larger foundations. Other findings reveal that nonprofit organizations have found it more difficult to attract new funders and that some foundations are unintentionally shrinking their endowments to continue promoting their mission and honoring obligations to traditional grantees.

Offering suggestions to funders dealing with these shifts in funding levels, the report recommends implementation of financial analysis that incorporates future assets and comprehensive grantmaking projections to manage volatile endowment levels. It also advises frequent and transparent communication between foundations and their grantees so that lower levels of support can be anticipated by grantees. Furthermore, the report's authors encourage foundations to provide financial management and resource development support to grantees so that these organizations can continue to function despite the reductions in foundation support.

This depiction of social justice philanthropy reinforces The Overbrook Foundation’s current focus on making extremely strategic funding choices, continuing with responsible budgetary planning and engaging in good communication with grantees organizations. While many of the findings and recommendations were known to us, the report has provided several interesting ideas and themes to consider over the next several years. In addition, it might serve as a good resource for Directors and grantees to further understand the challenges that face The Overbrook Foundation and other foundations in this economic climate.