Press Release

New Report Provides First Comprehensive Look at Foundation Support for the Humanities


Humanities' Share of Foundation Giving Slips Over Past Decade

NEW YORK, NY, June 21, 2004 – Giving by private foundations to the humanities more than doubled during the past decade, according to a new study conducted and published by the Foundation Center in collaboration with the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The report, Foundation Funding for the Humanities: An Overview of Current and Historical Trends, finds that funding for fields such as art history, history and archeology, languages and linguistics, area studies, and the humanistic social sciences increased two and one-half times (149.8 percent) from $134.1 million in 1992 to $335 million in 2002.

At the same time the report notes that, despite the overall increase, some scholarly disciplines actually lost ground over the ten year period. Support for the humanities grew more slowly than overall foundation giving during this period (up 199.8 percent), and the share of giving for the humanities slipped from 2.5 percent in the early 1990s to 2.1 percent in 2002.

"The humanities face several challenges in the current funding arena," noted Loren Renz, vice president for research at the Foundation Center. "The most important of these challenges is to actively engage new donors and foundations and to help them understand how the humanities fit into their broader giving priorities. We hope that this report will assist humanities organizations, scholars, and funders in making that case."

"While we are gratified by the rise in overall giving, there is still cause for concern about the lack of support for scholarly research and for such core disciplines as literature and the study of languages, two fields that have witnessed alarming declines in actual support" said Leslie Berlowitz, Chief Executive Officer of the Academy.

Report Includes Brief History of Foundation Support for the Humanities

Foundation Funding for the Humanities includes an essay providing "Historical Perspectives on Foundation Support for the Humanities." Prepared by James Allen Smith, a noted historian and scholar of philanthropy, this commentary identifies the principal grantmakers and trends influencing foundation support for the humanities from the start of the twentieth century through today.

Report Documents Trends in Foundation Giving for Humanities

Foundation Funding for the Humanities focuses on trends in grantmaking from 1992 through 2002 based on an analysis of all of the grants of $10,000 or higher awarded by more than 1,000 of the nation's largest private and community foundations. Among these funders, 683 made 3,296 humanities grants in 2002. The report also documents changes in giving for the humanities by humanities subfield or discipline, recipient type, funder and recipient location, and type of support. In addition, the report provides a ranking of the top 25 U.S. foundations by giving for the humanities in 2002.

Among other key findings from the report:

Top Funders – The number of humanities funders grew by close to two-fifths, yet five foundations provided a quarter of grant dollars.From 1992 to 2002, the overall number of larger foundations included in the Foundation Center's annual grants sample increased only slightly, while the number that funded the humanities grew by 37 percent to 683. At the same time, five foundations-the Andrew W. Mellon, Righteous Persons, Ford, and Annenberg foundations and the Packard Humanities Institute-provided just over one-quarter of 2002 humanities grant dollars. Three of these foundations-Mellon, Ford, and Annenberg-made humanities grants in at least ten years from 1992 through 2002 that totaled at least $1 million or represented 25 percent or more of their giving. Other humanities funders meeting this criteria included the Rockefeller, Henry Luce, Kresge, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur, Lynde and Harry Bradley, and Samuel H. Kress foundations, the Pew Charitable and J. Paul Getty trusts, and the Lilly Endowment.

Giving Focus – Historical activities and humanities-related museum activities accounted for the largest shares of giving. Two humanities subfields-historical activities and humanities-related museum activities-together captured 49 percent of 2002 humanities grant dollars and over 54 percent of grants. The other principal areas of humanities giving included art history, history and archeology, humanities-related arts, culture, and media, humanities-related social sciences, and multidisciplinary humanities activities. Between 1998 and 2002, growth was extremely uneven across subfields. The rise of new and large funders with narrow interests in the humanities and the impact of several exceptionally large grants all contributed to changes in the patterns of humanities giving. In addition, levels of support have dropped for some of the least funded disciplines, such as classical and foreign languages.

Future Outlook – The long-term health of the humanities field requires an active effort to cultivate new funders. A modest recovery in the nation's economic fortunes should help to boost diminished foundation assets and encourage measured increases in giving for the humanities and other fields over the next several years. Nonetheless, the long-term health of the humanities field will require an active effort on the part of humanities funders and leaders in the field to educate grantmakers about the needs and opportunities presented by the humanities and to encourage them-especially some of the tens of thousands of foundations formed in the last decade-to include the humanities among their giving priorities.

Humanities Funding Resources

Foundation Funding for the Humanities was prepared by the Foundation Center with the support and collaboration of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The report can be accessed at no charge from the "Researching Philanthropy" area of the Foundation Center's website,, or from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences' website,

Publication of Foundation Funding for the Humanities comes during Funding for Arts Month, a Foundation Center-wide initiative spanning the month of June that features a range of special programs, new resources, and website content focused on giving to nonprofit arts, culture, media, and humanities organizations. Visit for schedules of events, listings of publications, and information on other resources.

About the Foundation Center

The Foundation Center's mission is to strengthen the nonprofit sector by advancing knowledge about U.S. philanthropy. To achieve its mission, the Center collects, organizes, and communicates information on U.S. philanthropy; conducts and facilitates research on trends in the field; provides education and training on the grantseeking process; and ensures public access to information and services through its website, print and electronic publications, five library/learning centers, and a national network of Cooperating Collections. Founded in 1956, the Center is the nation's leading authority on philanthropy and is dedicated to serving grantseekers, grantmakers, researchers, policymakers, the media, and the general public.

About the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences was founded in 1780 by John Adams and other scholar-patriots "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." Its current membership of over 3,900 Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members includes more than 150 Nobel laureates and fifty Pulitzer Prize winners. Drawing on the wide-ranging expertise of its membership, the Academy conducts thoughtful, innovative, non-partisan studies on international security, American institutions, education, and the humanities. This report is part of the Academy's Initiative for the Humanities and Culture, a major ongoing project that assesses the challenges and prospects for the humanities in America.




Humanities Indicators

Norman Marshall Bradburn and Robert B. Townsend