Foundation Grants to Individuals

Over 44,458 organizations made grants to individuals within the United States this past year, with combined cash and non-cash grants worth almost $70 billion
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Over 44,458 organizations made grants to individuals within the United States this past year, with combined cash and non-cash grants to these individuals worth $69,275,859,991 (split 80% cash, 20% non-cash / in-kind). The most common grants to individuals were for food aid, scholarships and tuition assistance, clothing, medical support, and related supplies, with grants from hospitals and universities dominating the dollar figure.

Looking at just foundations — and excluding hospital and school foundations — approximately 8,168 foundations gave $3,844,662,679 in grants (almost all cash versus in-kind) to individuals. Supplies, food, scholarships, and travel were the most common, but grants ranged from oil change coupons to personal computers, general cash support to wedding gowns.

Types of foundations that give grants to individuals

While trade and professional associations are the most common type of nonprofit that provide grants to individuals, colleges and universities give the most monetarily (mostly in scholarships). When ranking by the number of individuals assisted, food banks, homeless shelters, and other human services nonprofits dominate (although they often count the same individuals multiple times). Here are breakdowns:

Types of nonprofits that give the most overall amount to individuals

Nonprofit typeTotal amount given to individuals
Developmentally disabled centers
High schools
Community colleges
Food banks
Scholarship organizations
Multiservice human service organizations
General hospitals
Elementary schools
Emergency assistance programs
Public housing agencies
School foundations
Professional schools
Day care centers

Types of nonprofits that give to the most number of individuals

Nonprofit typeNumber of individual recipients
Food banks
Emergency assistance programs
Food distribution programs
Multiservice human service organizations
Homeless shelters
homeless assistance program
Community development corporations
Organizations supporting multiple human services nonprofits
Religious organizations
Veteran organizations
Immigrant centers
Senior centers
International humanitarian organizations

Grant areas that foundations provide to individuals

The types of grants that foundations and other nonprofits provide to individuals vary widely. In looking at the line-item description of grants and assistance to individuals from Schedule I of the Form 990, here are the most common areas (with many nonprofits granting in multiple areas):

  1. Tuition-related: Tuition assistance and scholarships (20,980 nonprofits)
  2. General assistance: Financial assistance, rent assistance, and household items (14,390 nonprofits)
  3. Professional grants: To support travel, fellowships, and research (5,211 nonprofits)
  4. Medical-related: Prescription drugs, medical procedures, and medical equipment (1,213 nonprofits)
  5. Food-related grants: Food, groceries, and food vouchers (1,587 nonprofits)
  6. Housing-related: Transitional housing, rent assistance, and utility payments (1,744 nonprofits)

These figures should be viewed as minimums, with the many more nonprofits providing grants to individuals in the areas. This is because many nonprofits do not fill out Schedule I of the Form 990, which calls for organizations to list "grants and other assistance to domestic individuals". For example, the Great Falls Community Food Bank (which provides ~$800k in food aid to families in Great Falls, Montana) fills out Schedule I, but the Butte Emergency Food Bank (which provides ~$1M in food aid to families in Butte, Montana) does not. The difference boils down to a simple Form 990 expense recording difference: the Great Falls Community Food Bank records their food assistance as a "Grants and other assistance to domestic individuals" (Form 990, Part IX, Line 2) and the Butte Emergency Food Bank records their food assistance as an "Other expenses" expense (Form 990, Part IX, Line 24). It's up to accountants to determine which is right, but only when Form 990, Part IX, Line 2 is greater than $5,000 do organizations fill out Part III of Schedule I, which is where the detailed data on foundation grants to individuals resides.


Cause IQ digitizes and cleans electronic and paper / scanned Form 990s for over 1.7 million IRS-registered tax-exempt organizations. To complete this analysis, we analyzed electronically-filed Form 990s that contained a positive value for Part IX, Line 2 ("Grants and other assistance to domestic individuals"). We also analyzed Part III of Schedule I for these organizations to determine grant type and number of recipients. Because this analysis is dependent on e-file Form 990s, all the counts should be viewed as a bare minimum. Similarly, private foundations are not included in this analysis, because they do not fill out Schedule I, and the Form 990-PF does not break out grants specific to individuals.

Article originally published on September 17, 2020.

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