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Study finds philanthropy grew in 2008 in Connecticut

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Foundation giving rose despite recession onset

State philanthropy records show a 22-percent increase in grant distributions for 2008, despite the onset of the Great Recession.

In a report released Tuesday, the Hartford-based Connecticut Council for Philanthropy cites the increase of more than $902.7 million distributed by grant-makers in the state in 2008, as compared with 2006.

The year 2008 is the most recent year for which records are available. The council does not have complete data until two years after the fact since information has to be culled from Internal Revenue Service tax returns and extensions, said Nancy Roberts, council president, in a phone interview.

"The start of the economic downturn in late 2008 had a significant impact on foundation activity that will be felt for years to come," Roberts said earlier, in a prepared statement. Yet, because charitable distribution for foundations is often based on a 3- to 5-year past average, grant-making did not decrease, but experienced a sizeable increase in that year.

However, she added, foundations' assets fell 1 percent, to $8.8 billion, from 2006 totals, a hint of the losses likely to be reflected in more current records, which have not yet been compiled. Moreover, assets fell even as the number of foundations increased, a worrying sign, she said.

"(The year) 2008 was when (the recession) hit, so all the assets went down in 2008," Roberts said. "It's important to recognize there still was a lot of giving even though assets had gone down significantly."

There are more than 72,200 grant-making foundations in the United States, of which 2,378 are active in Connecticut and included in the council's report.

Despite the increase in grant distributions in 2008, the gyrations of the stock market since the recession began continue to be felt broadly, she added. Their impact will be reflected in future reports, Roberts said.

"Obviously, the market has gone up and down since 2008," Roberts said. "I expect everyone is still below where they were at the end of 2007, and that includes the endowments of nonprofits, foundations or universities. Therefore, as we go forward - and we won't know this until we do the numbers - grant making will be going down" for 2009, and perhaps beyond.

Roberts noted that personal giving is also in decline, so when the economy and grant-making nonprofits will recover remains to be seen. "It's going to take a while to come back," she said.

Founded in 1969 as a nonprofit group, the council is a statewide association of family and independent foundations, corporate foundations and contributions programs, community foundations and other private and public grant-makers.

For more reports and statistics about philanthropy in Connecticut visit or call (860) 525-5585.


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