The largest U.S. foundations gave a total of $19.1 billion to charity in 2006, up 16 percent from 2005, with support growing across the range of causes, a new report says.
The biggest 1,300 funders awarded a total of 140,484 grants in 2006, up 7.3 percent from the previous year, says the 2008 edition of the Foundation Center's annual look at foundation giving.
The number of mega-grants awarded in 2006 was up by almost half, to 156 gifts of $10 million or more, while the number of grants of $5 million or more grew to 386.
All types of recipients saw increases in grant dollars, the study says, with six in 10 showing double-digit growth.
For the first time, health organizations garnered 23 percent of grant dollars more than any other group, while education organizations received 22.5 percent.
The shift resulted in large part to an increase in giving by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also helped foundations in the West move ahead those in the Northeast in their share of grant dollars awarded, the report says.
Grant dollars received by international-affairs, social-sciences and health groups grew the fastest, while human-services groups received the most grants.
Program support rose to almost half of all grant dollars awarded, the report says, while both general support and capital support dipped slightly, each receiving just under one in five grant dollars.
Funding for people who are economically disadvantaged grew to $4 billion, a larger share of grant dollars than any other specific group, and also had one of the highest growth rates in dollars received, as did people with AIDS and single parents.
International giving also surged in 2006, reaching $4.6 billion, or slightly more than one in five grant dollars awarded.
Independent foundations favored health, international affairs grantees and social sciences grantees, the report says, while corporate funders leaned toward education and pubic affairs/society benefit.
Community foundations gave proportionally more to human services groups, arts and culture, environment and religion.