“To what extent are private foundations using Facebook 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, 423 private foundations appear to have Facebook accounts out of a total of more than 90,000. 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 Facebook research for private foundations are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Private Foundations with Facebook Accounts

Foundation Type     Number of Fdns     % of N     $ Assets     % of Total Assets
Community 300 71% $44.2B 30%
Corporate 37 9%  $5.7B 4%
Family 16 4% $41.1B 28%
National 26 6%   $25B 17%
Special Purpose 44 10%   $29B 20%
Totals 423 100% $144.8B 100%


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

Each of the four remaining types of foundations represent nominal Facebook users. The family and special purpose foundations hold 50% of the Facebook user assets. Curiously, neither the family nor national foundations seem to have a notable Facebook presence, based on the available data.

Next, to learn more about the nature of the Facebook communications, Miner and Associates initially selected 32 national, corporate, and special purpose foundations we wanted to follow. However, when we went to “Like” these Facebook foundations, to our surprise, 12 (38%) did NOT have Facebook pages. Whether the Foundation Center information was wrong or the foundations started but subsequently dropped their Facebook involvement remains an unanswered question. Consequently we are currently following 20 foundations with Facebook pages.

Social media is, by nature and time, social. To date, our Facebook experience is that the Foundation users are posting much more information about the social benefit of the projects they are funding; that is, they are professionally trumpeting the human needs that their projects are solving. We are finding much less information compared to Twitter regarding application guidelines, deadlines, or review protocols. Facebook could be of general value to grantseekers by studying funded projects as an insight into recent funding priorities, but not necessarily current priorities. The five private foundations I am now following that post on Facebook more frequently are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, River Fund of New York, Rockefeller Foundation, John A. Hartford Foundation, and C. S. Mott Foundation.

We post several times each week, but our posts are more informational, nuts-and-bolts type of grant information compared with private foundation posting. We invite you to “Follow” us by clicking on the Facebook button on the right hand column of this blog post. Our latest Facebook posting is entitled “Proposal Pink Slime.” We think you’ll “Like” it. Copy and paste this link in your browser: http://t.co/AzX6VNNc

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