Following the Money

Following the Money: An Analysis of Foundation Grantmaking for Community and Economic Development

Local community and economic development (CED) depends on a combination of public and private funding. In recent years, foundation grants have become an important source of funding for initiatives to develop the local economy through the pursuit of better-paying jobs, infrastructure to support revitalization, affordable housing, or improved systems for education or health care. However, there is a perception among some CED practitioners that small and economically distressed metro areas do not attract a proportional share of grant funding from the nation's largest foundations.

The Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Atlanta recently investigated the way in which foundation grants to support CED activities were distributed across 366 metropolitan areas in the United States. The research relied on data provided by the Foundation Center that captured grants of at least $10,000 made by the 1,000 largest foundations between 2008 and 2013. Check out the interactive data and results from our analysis in the sections below.


  • Following the Money Infographic: Variation across Metro Areas
  • Following the Money Infographic: Total Grantmaking
  • Following the Money Infographic: What Attracts Grant Capital?
  • Following the Money Infographic: Activities Funded

Explore the Data

Use the checkboxes and slider menu in the first tab below to choose which metro areas and year of grantmaking you would like to view. The map and charts on both tabs will automatically update based on your choices.

What We Learned

Read the accompanying article for Following the Money as it appeared in volume 8, issue 3 of The Foundation Review.

screenshot of Following the Money article as published in The Foundation Review

Download this article

Data Definitions and Sources

The grant-level data set analyzed in this research was acquired from the Foundation Center. The data set includes grants of at least $10,000 made between 2008 and 2013 by the nation's 1,000 largest foundations. Rather than analyzing all such grants, this research examines those directed toward core community and economic development activities as well as other efforts to improve the quality of life of low- and moderate-income communities (such as grants for education, human services, and health). Efforts have been made to include only grants that were deployed within the recipient's metro area to improve local conditions; as such, we have attempted to exclude grants to recipients with service areas extending beyond the borders of their metro area and grants used to fund research and evaluation. The data set used in the final analysis includes nearly 169,000 grants totaling almost $15 billion in grant volume.

Grant Volume per Capita: This represents the total grant volume made to recipients in a metro area divided by the metro area population. Dollar values are inflation-adjusted to 2013. Total values are the sum of the annual values from 2008 through 2013. The categories used to classify metro areas on the map—from low to high—reflect four equal groups (quartiles) based on this measure.

Grants per 10,000 Residents: This reflects the number of grants made to recipients in a metro area for every 10,000 residents of the metro area. Total values are simply the sum of the annual values from 2008 through 2013.

Grant Activities: This is the distribution of grant volume in a metro area by the primary activities funded. Where available, the primary activity reflects the subject of the grant itself; otherwise, it is based on the coding of the grant recipient. The Foundation Center used the Philanthropy Classification System to code the grants used in this analysis.

Grantmaker Assets per Capita (2013): This represents the assets held by all foundations making a grant in the data set in 2013 divided by the metro area population in the same year. In 2013, foundations making grants included in this analysis were located in 134 of the 366 metro areas in the study. Asset values are from the Urban Institute's NCCS Core Trend Files for private foundations and public charities. Where 2013 asset values were not available, the value from the most recent prior year was inflation-adjusted to 2013. This should not be interpreted as a comprehensive measure of a metro area's foundation assets.

Community and Economic Development Nonprofits per 10,000 Residents (2008–12): Between 2008 and 2012, this is the average number of nonprofits working in community and economic development for every 10,000 residents in the metro area. The number of nonprofits was derived from the Urban Institute's NCCS Core Trend File for public charities and limited to organizations working in education; health; food, agriculture, and nutrition; housing and shelter; human services; and community improvement/capacity building. This calculation excludes a subset of organizations that are unlikely to provide direct, local services related to community and economic development. Given these restrictions, it should not be interpreted as a comprehensive measure of a metro area's nonprofit sector.

Contact Us

photo of Keith Wardrip

Keith Wardrip
Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Will Lambe
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Mels de Zeeuw, Community & Economic Development Research Analyst

Mels de Zeeuw
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

 

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