Popular Grant Giving Foundations

By Martha Chitwood , last updated July 21, 2011

With thousands of grant-giving foundations, both public and private, currently active in the United States, you must do your research when preparing to seek funding for your nonprofit organization and its projects. Before selecting which foundations to target with your grant proposal, it's worthwhile to know which foundations have been most active in funding different types of organizations and initiatives. You should also consider whether an institution typically distributes a small number of large grants, or a greater number of more modest awards.

Arts and Humanities

In 2009, the American Arts Foundation awarded the most money in the category of arts and humanities, totaling almost $111 million in just two very large awards. The next highest amount awarded that year in this category came from Lucasfilm Foundation, which divided more than $59 million among eight grantees. The foundation that made the highest number of individual grants for humanities and the arts was the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, which doled out 530 awards totaling more than $24 million.

Health and Education

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation bestowed by far the most money in the area of education in 2009, giving more than $562 million in 255 separate grants. Silicon Valley Community Foundation awarded twice as many education grants that year, but with a much smaller total amount of approximately $126 million. The Gates Foundation also took the honor for highest dollar amount award in the category of health, with 417 grants made in 2009 totaling nearly $1.7 billion.

Science, Nature and Technology

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was an excellent source of science and technology funding in 2009, making 82 grants for a total distribution of more than $80 million. Intel Foundation funded 183 different grantees, in a total amount of about $12.3 million. The Moore Foundation also showed strong support for wildlife and the environment, with 178 awards amounting to more than $144 million overall, but was surpassed by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation in both dollar amount and number of grants. The Packard Foundation gave out more than $146 million in 338 separate awards.

Social Action and Human Services

Encompassing the realms of housing, youth development, civil rights and social action, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was a top grantmaker in 2009, giving about $104.4 million to 235 different organizations. The Ford Foundation was also highly active in funding social action initiatives, granting approximately $57.4 million in 193 separate awards. On the human services side, for activities focusing on housing and youth, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation issued an impressive 1,382 grants totaling just over $57.4 million.

Community Development

The Ford Foundation shows up again on the 2009 roster of big givers, with nearly $46 million awarded in 152 grants for community development and improvement. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation proved a strong supporter of organizations in this category as well, distributing almost $20 million to 368 grantees in 2009.

Whether you target a large national foundation with a broad scope in terms of the types of activities it funds, or look closer to home for a more locally focused or specifically themed foundation, do your homework and look at the numbers from past years to help gauge your chance of success.

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