Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  Private Funding
 
Foundation Funding of Humanities Activities
(Updated October 2014)

Private funding for the humanities takes myriad forms, but foundations are a substantial source of support for humanities activities in the United States. Data from the Foundation Center shed light on giving to the humanities by the 1,000 largest private and community foundations in the country.

Findings and Trends

  • Out of a total of $22 billion in grants, foundations gave $402 million for humanities-related activities in 2012. The largest portion of foundation funding to the humanities in 2012 was allocated to “museum activities,” which received 23% of grant funds (approximately $92 million) (Indicator IV-8a).
  • Among the humanities disciplines, history received the largest allocation of foundation funds, including $87 million for historical activities (a category that extends from commemorative activities to preservation), and another $31 million for grants to support scholarship and programs in history (including archeology). In comparison, grants for art history, languages, and philosophy each amounted to less than $10 million per discipline.
  • After increasing 43% from 2002 to 2007 (from $355 million to $509 million in inflation-adjusted value), foundation funding for the humanities experienced a contraction from 2007 to 2012, falling 21% to $402 million, but remaining 13% above the 2002 level (Indicator IV-8b).
  • From 2002 to 2007, the amount in grants distributed by foundations for humanities activities increased more rapidly than the total amount of grantmaking. Thus foundation funding for the humanities increased as a share of all giving by such organizations (rising from 1.8% to 2.1%). By 2012, however, the proportion of foundation grant monies going to the humanities had returned to near its 2002 level.
  • The number of foundation grants awarded to the humanities increased from 3,038 in 2002 to 3,466 in 2007, but then fell to 3,183 in 2012 (Indicator IV-8c). Humanities awards remained almost constant at almost 2.5% of the total number of foundation grants made, despite the increase in the absolute number of grants between 2002 and 2007. The proportion of humanities grants then fell to 2.1% of the awards given across all fields and activities in 2012.
  • On average, foundation grant recipients in the humanities received $126,424 in 2012. The average across all fields and activities was $145,332.
  • While “museum activities” received the largest allocation of foundation funds for the humanities in 2012, the category “historical activities” had the largest number of grants (Indicator IV-8d). The $87 million allocated to historical activities was disbursed in 960 grants, as compared to 816 grants for museum activities.
  • Only “museum activities” saw an increase in the number of foundation grants received in each of the three years examined here—rising from 685 in 2002 to 793 in 2007 and then increasing slightly to 816 in 2012.
IV-8a: Distribution of Foundation Grant Monies among Humanities Activity Types, 2012 (Millions of Current Dollars)
Source: The Foundation Center, 2014. Based on the Foundation Center’s FC 1000 data set, which includes all grants of $10,000 or more awarded to organizations by a set of 1,000 of the largest U.S. private and community foundations by total giving. For community foundations, only discretionary and donor-advised grants are included. Grants to individuals are not included in the file.
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IV-8b: Value of Foundation Grants for Humanities Activities, 2002–2012 (Adjusted for Inflation)
Source: The Foundation Center, 2014. Based on the Foundation Center’s FC 1000 data set, which includes all grants of $10,000 or more awarded to organizations by a set of 1,000 of the largest U.S. private and community foundations by total giving. For community foundations, only discretionary and donor-advised grants are included. Grants to individuals are not included in the file. Funding amounts were adjusted for inflation using the GDP deflators published by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.
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IV-8c: Number of Foundation Grants for Humanities Activities, 2002–2012
Source: The Foundation Center, 2014. Based on the Foundation Center’s FC 1000 data set, which includes all grants of $10,000 or more awarded to organizations by a set of 1,000 of the largest U.S. private and community foundations by total giving. For community foundations, only discretionary and donor-advised grants are included. Grants to individuals are not included in the file.
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IV-8d: Distribution of Foundation Grants among Humanities Activity Types, 2002–2012
Source: The Foundation Center, 2014. Based on the Foundation Center’s FC 1000 data set, which includes all grants of $10,000 or more awarded to organizations by a set of 1,000 of the largest U.S. private and community foundations by total giving. For community foundations, only discretionary and donor-advised grants are included. Grants to individuals are not included in the file.
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