The Pittsburgh Foundation

Foundation raises record-breaking $68 million in 2018

New revenue will increase grantmaking in the region

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 6, 2019 – Despite the most comprehensive change to the federal tax code in several decades, including a doubling of the standard deduction that prompted many leaders of charities to fear sharp decreases in donations for 2018, The Pittsburgh Foundation brought in $68 million last year, the highest cash-in amount raised in the Foundation's 74-year history.

The total reflects the establishment of 97 new funds at the Foundation, including a record-setting 14 at its affiliate, The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.

Of the 97 new funds established, 64 were donor-advised, including 11 at the CFWC. The cash-in total from 2017 was $60.5 million.

“This is an outstanding accomplishment by an amazingly talented team of development and donor services professionals,” Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King said in announcing the fundraising total. “The numbers offer powerful evidence that residents of our region see real value in delivering their personal philanthropy through the community foundation model. We are an even bigger tent now, and we’ll be able to do even more to improve quality of life in the region.”

This achievement is very good news in the Foundation’s ability to continue filling its mission of improving quality of life in the community: staff anticipate that record donations will lead to a substantial increase in grantmaking. The exact amount will be determined by the Foundation’s investment performance and spending policy. 

Yvonne Maher, the Foundation’s executive vice president who manages Development and Donor Services, noted that while there was the expected flurry of donations in December, the cash-in stream ran consistently during the year. Performance was strong in all categories of gifts, including planned giving, revenue from newly established funds and gifts from existing donors who added to their funds.

Some charities and foundations were concerned that tax law changes would dampen giving, Maher said. "Experience tells us that our donors remain committed to their personal causes and to what we do as a foundation. Last year was no exception.” Some donors met the higher standardized deduction threshold by ‘bunching’ their gifts – projecting their charitable giving over the next few years and then making one large gift to a new or existing donor-advised fund, she said.

Last year, donors made gifts totaling $43.6 million to existing funds at the Foundation, as compared to $20.3 million in 2017.

“Given the number of new funds established over the past 10 years, we anticipate that gifts to existing funds will continue to be an area of growth at the Foundation,” said Maher.

And to provide a broader view of this year’s achievement, more than half of the total assets under management at the Foundation have been raised in the past decade: 941 new funds have been established since 2009.

As of year-end, the Foundation manages a total of 2,361 active funds of which 1,073 – or 45 percent – are donor-advised.

Grants dollars awarded last year also increased. The Foundation made 7,043 grants totaling $48.5 million. Of those, 4,669 grants totaling $21.3 million were from donor-advised funds. This grant-making total is up from $44.5 million in 2017, when the Foundation awarded 6,209 grants. Included in that were 3,874 grants from donor-advised funds totaling $21.1 million.

The Foundation continued to support its 100 Percent Pittsburgh organizing principle, which aims to create opportunities to help the 30 percent of the region’s population left out of an improved Pittsburgh economy become full participants. Last year, the Foundation directed half of its discretionary grant dollars toward 100 Percent Pittsburgh-related initiatives, about the same as in 2017.

“No matter how successful our fundraising, we will never come close to providing what governments at every level provide in services and programs,” said King. “But increased donor support gives us a stronger position in addressing needs that aren’t being met and in developing communities in which everyone has a stake.”

*Unaudited numbers. Audited financials will be reported in July.


Doug Root
The Pittsburgh Foundation