2016 Foundation Operations and Management Report

The premier benchmarking resource for foundations with few or no staff.

The 2016 edition of our flagship report includes more than 60 pages of mission-critical statistics about member foundations’ boards & governance, investments, administration, and grantmaking.

Members: Download the digital copy

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Members may request a complimentary print copy (one per organization or individual member) by contacting us at info@exponentphilanthropy.org or 202-580-6560. 

About the Report 

The 2016 Foundation Operations and Management Report is based on the 15th operations and management survey of Exponent Philanthropy’s foundation members, conducted in Q2 2015. Data are also included from Exponent Philanthropy’s 2015 Foundation Salary and Benefits Report, based on data gathered in Q1 2015.

The report identifies seven grantmaking strategies that lead to outsized impact among Exponent Philanthropy member foundations. Ranked by the percentage of members that engage in them, they include:

1. Make general operating support grants 80%
2. Make multiyear grants 68%
3. Use information received from grantees to inform grantmaking 64%
4. Collaborate with other funders to increase impact 61%
5. Make capacity-building grants 58%
6. Convene grantees or organizations 37%
7. Make grants for advocacy work 28%


Some 85% of Exponent Philanthropy member foundations engage in two or more of these strategies to help them achieve outsized impact.

The 2016 Foundation Operations and Management Report also includes the following findings:

  • Foundation members collectively awarded an estimated $3.7 billion in grants in 2015
  • Foundation members pay out more than the required 5.00% every year
  • Foundation members fund more and provide stability in tough economic times
  • Key benchmarks for small-staffed foundation grantmaking, governance, operations, and investments

“Funders who work with few or no staff make up the vast majority of the philanthropy sector,” said Berman. “On average, a member foundation gives nearly $1.8 million per year across 40 grants but spends just 14 cents per dollar in operating costs.”

Exponent Philanthropy members support many issues, including education (79%), human services (60%), health (55%), arts & culture (50%), and environment and animals (36%). They are funding locally (86%), at the state level (42%), regionally (26%), nationally (37%), and internationally (22%).


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