“To what extent are private foundations using Twitter as a social media tool to communicate their messages?”

That’s the question we attempted to answer. Using the Foundation Center Online database as a source, 244 private foundations appear to have Twitter accounts. We cluster them into five different types of foundations on the basis of their general giving preferences.

  1. National Foundations – widespread geographic giving
  2. Community Foundations – limited geographic giving
  3. Family Foundations – giving influenced by family preferences
  4. Special Purpose Foundations – giving targeted for precise purposes, e.g., healthcare only
  5. Corporate Foundations – giving directed by their corporate parents

Full definitions and examples of these foundations are found in Chapter 3 of Proposal Planning and Writing, 4th edition.

The results of our Twitter research for private foundations are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Private Foundations with Twitter Accounts

Foundation Type    Number of Fdns    % of N    $ Assets    % of Total Assets
Community 156 64% $40.4B 24%
Corporate 24 10% $3.8B 2%
Family 13 5% $11.0B 6%
National 42 17% $104.3B 61%
Special Purpose 9 4% $10.7B 6%
Totals 244 100% $170.2B 100%


In round numbers, Table 1 indicates that while community foundations represent nearly two-thirds of the foundation Twitter users, they hold one-fourth of the assets. One implication is that the community foundations are making notable attempts to reach out to their local nonprofit recipients.

In contrast to the local scene, less than one-fourth of the national foundations currently use Twitter but they hold nearly two-thirds of the assets. We nearly see a flip-flop between community (high usage, low assets) and national foundations (low usage high assets).

Next, to learn more about the nature of the Twitter communications, Miner and Associates selected 51 national, corporate, and special purpose foundations we wanted to follow, which we are doing now. So far, we know the Twitter feeds on these private foundations are highly variable. Some tweet often, others occasionally. Of our targeted 51 private foundations, the five that have been tweeting on a frequent basis are the Knight Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, John and Catherine MacArthur Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Some of the 244 foundations have many followers, others few. So far, tweet topics include such things as new grant opportunities, annual reports, new YouTube videos, published research, grantmaker accomplishments, personnel changes, incidence statistics, outcomes tools, webinar alerts, and award listings.

Is it worthwhile for you to become a Twitterer? You’ll have to decide. To access Twitter, click on the Twitter icon in the right hand column of this page. If you want to know who I am following, click on “Following” on my Twitter home page. Look in the upper left-hand corner. If you don’t want to follow Twitter regularly, but would like to see my tweets, you can find them by clicking on “Tweets” in the same location.

Those are my thoughts; tell me yours. Just click on “Comments” tab above.

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