The Pittsburgh Foundation

Foundation awarded record $67 million in grants in its 75th year

COVID-related crises reshaped priorities, encouraged collaboration and resulted in rapid relief

PITTSBURGH, FEB. 8, 2021 – In a year when multiple crises have rocked cities around the world, The Pittsburgh Foundation along with its donors and philanthropic partners set new benchmarks for community giving, awarding $67 million in grants. It is the largest amount in its history, up from $65.7 million in 2019.

The Foundation, which turned 75 last year, raised $52 million from all sources, including corporations and foundations, donors and the public. In typical years, the majority of new dollars raised are endowed (funds that maintain a minimum balance in perpetuity). But last year, a total of $13.5 million was collected through special initiative funds and granted almost immediately back out into the community to address critical needs.

“The circumstances of last year required our Foundation to toss aside the traditional philanthropy playbook so that we could provide the most support possible to nonprofits that provide the essential human services safety net for this community,” said Lisa Schroeder, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “It was literally a situation in which residents faced losing life essentials such as food, housing and the ability to protect themselves from the virus. We had to respond as quickly and as broadly as possible. I am so proud and grateful to this community and our staff.”

Responding rapidly to the crisis required the Foundation’s staff to collaborate in new ways with philanthropies, nonprofits and government agencies to award grants quickly—well in advance of government assistance—to organizations on the forefront of coronavirus and racial justice response. In a matter of days, the Foundation also transitioned its established business processes from paper checks to secure electronic funds transfers, which allowed staff to work at home and distribute dollars to grantees on a weekly basis. The grants application process was also streamlined, significantly reducing the burden on grantees, and reducing the timeframe for funding decisions by months. These grants supported nonprofits meeting basic needs and arts organizations impacted by the cancellation of performances and other revenue generating activities.

Corporate and philanthropic partners gave record amounts to support the Foundation’s Emergency Action Fund for COVID-19 relief for emergency shelter, operating support, food access, PPE and community health center support, with donations from corporations increasing to $4.1 million. This is an increase from the $3.6 million donated by corporations to the Foundation in 2019. Gifts from other foundations to the Foundation spiked to $7.1 million in 2020 from the $4.7 million total for the year prior. This included seed donations to the Emergency Action Fund of $1 million each from our Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, Henry L. Hillman Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. In addition, the Foundation’s donors gave generously from their donor-advised funds, contributing $826,000 to the Emergency Action Fund and the public gave $362,000. Donors and the public also gave $521,000 to the Grantmaking for Racial Justice Fund.

A total of 54 new funds were also established last year, bringing the total number of funds under management to 2,491. The average size of a new fund established at the Foundation increased by 35% from $160,000 to $214,000.

Of the 7,590 grants totaling $67 million last year, donors were responsible for $37 million in support awarded from donor-advised funds, up $5 million from 2019. Grants issued directly by the Foundation hit a historic high of 590 grants: a 51% increase from the prior year. Another record was set by donors to the annual Critical Needs campaign, which raised a record $1.85 million to support nonprofits providing basic needs, of which $1.33 million came from the public.

In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, the staff made the case, through a series of webinars on racial equity and injustice, for giving to a new Fund for Racial Justice, providing donors with context on issues such as eviction, fair housing and education access.

“Our donors and the public gave with us, strongly and without hesitation,” said Schroeder, “and that has inspired us as we try to make gains toward racial equity. It is inspiring to see so many standing with us and using their funds to support organizations that are led by people of color and working to eliminate racial inequities.”

In addition to establishing the Emergency Action Fund and the Grantmaking for Racial Justice Fund, the Foundation was enlisted by Allegheny County officials for the first time to distribute government funds – specifically in this case, coronavirus relief to small, community-based nonprofits that are led by and serve people of color, immigrants and refugees, or LGBTQIA communities. Together, these three special initiatives made grants totaling $12.6 million.

The Foundation’s affiliate, The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, also had a record year, increasing fundraising by 500% to $6.3 million up from $1.6 million in 2019. That number included a $4 million grant from an anonymous foundation to fund its Comprehensive Community Investment Strategy, which focuses CFWC investments on people and communities with a disproportionate number of residents who have household incomes less than 200% of the poverty level.

Careful management of the Foundation’s assets led to gains despite market volatility. Assets under management reached a record $1.27 billion at year-end up from $1.11 billion in 2019.  The preliminary investment return to the Foundation was 10.8%, a gain of $115 million and the third-highest gain ever for the Foundation behind 2019 at $166 million and 2017 at $123 million.

All the while, the Foundation continued its annual process of awarding funds to individual artists, scholarships to students and distributing grants from funds designated to specific organizations.

“The pandemic, economic crisis, racist violence and civil unrest of last year were traumatic for residents across our region. But the resilience of our communities, marked by selfless generosity, gives me great hope for the future and an unshakeable belief that we will recover and rise together,” said Schroeder.

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

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