chapter  5
22 Pages

Power Beyond the Purse: Philanthropic Foundations as Agents of Social Change

ByDebra Meyerson, Laura Wernick

As an institution, philanthropy in the United States and throughout the world has become increasingly prominent in addressing social problems and eff ecting social change to improve the public good. According to the Foundation Center (2009), charitable giving by the 1,300 largest foundations in the United States rose in 2007 by 13.2% to $21.6 billion. Giving USA (2008) estimated that total charitable spending in the United States reached $307.65 billion in 2008, a sum that included $229.3 billion from individual donations, $14.5 billion from corporate donations, $41.2 billion from all foundations, and $22.6 billion from charitable bequests. Th e number of registered foundations has also expanded rapidly over the past century. Whereas in 1930 approximately 200 foundations with endowments that totaled $13 billion (in current dollars) were registered in the United States, by 2008, that number had expanded to 75,000 foundations with assets totaling more than $565 billion (Giving USA, 2008; Lawrence & Mukai, 2010).