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Grants to Nonprofit Endowments Represent a Small Slice of Foundation Giving, New CEP Study Finds

Date: March 26, 2024

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Media Contact: Chloe Heskett, Editor & Writer, CEP | | 617-395-4092 

Cambridge, MA – Fewer than a third of foundations fund nonprofit endowments, according to a new study from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), and for those that do, these grants represent a small fraction of their giving.  

While in recent years, endowment giving has been championed as a way to advance equity, most foundations surveyed in CEP’s new research that fund endowments report that advancing equity is not their primary consideration. The Bridgespan Group simultaneously released a report today that provides an overview of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) approach to nonprofit endowment grantmaking and explores how philanthropy can use endowment funding for equitable social change. 

Rather, endowments — defined as funds to be kept permanently and invested to provide sustained support — have traditionally been directed to long-established and well-funded nonprofit institutions. The CEP study finds that these grants most often go to arts or direct service organizations and that most foundations making these grants use an existing relationship with the organization as criterion for funding. 

The CEP report, which includes survey responses from 283 foundations and interviews with 17 foundation leaders, sheds new light on endowment giving as a funding strategy. The research was funded by RWJF. 

About the Center for Effective Philanthropy  

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide data, feedback, programs, and insights to help individual and institutional donors improve their effectiveness. We do this work because we believe effective donors, working collaboratively and thoughtfully, can profoundly contribute to creating a better and more just world. For more information on CEP’s work, including its research, assessments, advisory services, and programming, visit 

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