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A foundation I’m researching has reported giving amounts greater than its assets. How is this possible?

It’s not uncommon to see foundation profiles in which the giving figure is greater than the assets figure because our profiles report year-end figures. For example, a foundation may start the year with $5 million in assets and give away $4 million. If that’s the case, the foundation profile would list $1 million in assets and a total giving of $4 million at year's end.

Many foundations are also considered “pass-through” foundations, meaning they have little to no endowments and instead make grants from periodic gifts into the foundation. Hence, giving almost always exceeds assets. For example, XYZ Company Foundation may start the fiscal year with assets of $1 million. Its parent company may have a very profitable year and contribute $4 million to the foundation. XYZ Company Foundation then gives away the $4 million and doesn’t touch the original assets. At year's end, the foundation would then report $4 million in giving and $1 million in assets.

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