Foundations Adjust to New Economic Realities

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There are more than three thousand charitable foundations in Ohio and they make over a billion-dollars-worth of grants each year.

Many are members of the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, which held its annual meeting in Cleveland this week. Forum president George Espy says recent events have changed the state's philanthropic health.

GEORGE ESPY: If you asked me up to three or four months ago, I would have said the state of philanthropy was pretty good --- it's generally increasing every year. However, the economic crisis has certainly affected philanthropy.

Espy says the tumult in the stock market has changed the picture over the last year. Foundation assets have dropped and there have been big cutbacks in grantmaking. Gund Foundation chief David Abbott says he and his colleagues are trying to adapt.

DAVID ABBOTT: The challenge for us is that we have less money because of the economic downturn, and that increases the need for us to be more strategic and thoughtful about how we spend our money.

A number of non-profit organizations also attended the grantmakers conference, sharing stories about how they are surviving in a time of shrinking funding. Keynote speaker Perla Ni who heads a group that champions the cause of non-profits says she understands that times are hard, but she worries that funders may become too conservative in their grants.

PERLA NI: We're in a pretty tough spot right now. I think this is the rainy day that we've been saving for.

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