Where Does Foundation Financial Research Get Data
Foundations are required to file a form called the 990 PF annually with the IRS. These forms are open to public inspection (see image below, top right, in red highlight under “2019”). Foundation Financial Research has digitized the data in these forms for all foundations with over $1 million in assets (over 40,000 foundations) for over ten years.
What Data Does FFR Capture? Page 1
The image at right is a copy of the 2019 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust 990 PF filing. As one can see there is a lot of information contained in the page.
To view pdf of the first two pages of the Gates 2019 filing click here.
Purple: Basic Information
Blue: Fair Market Value of Assets (see page two for more)
Yellow: Revenue , 12 fields including:
- Incoming contributions
- Other income
Yellow: Expenses , 16 fields including:
- Trustee compensation
- Employee wages
- Legal fees
- Accounting fees
- Other professional fees
- Contributions, grants and gifts
Pink: Net Investment Income, 21 fields of revenue and expense data from investments.
Green: Charitable Disbursements, 15 field pertaining to charitable gifts and operating expenses.
Looking at the image above, one can see that the Gates Foundation reported:
- $3.3 billion of incoming contributions. Field: Yellow Line 1, column (a)
- $6.1 billion of total expenses and disbursements. Field: Yellow Line 26, column (a)
- $74 million of investment expenses in “Other professional fees”. Field: Pink Line 16c, column (b)
- $5.2 billion of total charitable disbursements. Field: Green Line 26, column (c)
What Data Does FFR Capture? Page 2
Page two of the Gates Foundation filing contains the balance sheet information.
Blue: Assets and Liabilities, 25 fields including
- Corporate stock
- Corporate bonds
- Government bonds
- Investments – other
- Total Assets
- Grants payable
- Total liabilities
For the fiscal period ended December 31, 2019 Gates Foundation reported:
- $49.9 billion of total assets. Field: Blue Line 16, column (c)
- $726 million of cash and equivalents. Fields: Blue Line 1 + Line 2
- $33.5 billion in corporate stock (equities). Field: Blue Line 10b
- $9.8 billion of fixed income. Fields: Blue Line 10a + Line 10c
- $5.8 billion of “Investments – other”. Fields: Blue Line 13
The data captured from these two pages goes along way in describing the Gates foundation from a purely financial point of view. One can use the data (in conjunction with prior years data) to calculate payout ratios, asset allocations, investment expenses, and estimate investment returns. Moreover, by extracting these data fields from over 40,000 foundations per year (representing over 98% of total foundation assets), the data can be used to describe the foundation universe as a whole and serve for comprehensive comparative purposes.
How Much Data is There?
In the example above, we referenced 74 fields with financial data that Foundation Financial Research captures from each filing. Multiplying the number of fields by the number of foundations filings in a year gets to over 3 million fields. Over more than ten years of history runs to thirty million fields. And that is just from the first two pages.
Foundation Financial Research doesn’t stop at the first two pages, they pull additional data on trustees, contractors, and contributions from the complete 990PF filing. The filings in the Foundation Financial Research total over 1.2 million pages a year. To put that into perspective, consider the size of the 500 sheet ream of paper you put into a printer. Printing out the annual filings would amount to 2,500 reams, and be over 500 feet high.