Foundations Boost Area's Philanthropy

Posted: November 07, 1999

Foundations, corporate-giving programs and charities in the region distributed at least $384.5 million in grants during 1997.

Almost 80 percent of the money came from private foundations. The largest share of the grant money went for human services, for projects such as youth centers, programs that aid families and children, and employment training.

Those are among the findings of a regional survey of charitable giving released recently by the Delaware Valley Grantmakers, a nonprofit organization that promotes philanthropy.

Officials of the organization will use this report as ammunition to encourage individuals and companies to give more.

"I think we in this sector have a real responsibility to get our stories out and let people know that philanthropy has a very positive impact on the communities of this country," said Dale Mitchell, executive director of Delaware Valley Grantmakers.

Alexandra Samuels, the director of research and communications who prepared the document, said the report does not reflect all giving in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware during 1997. It is based on surveys completed by 53 of the 150 foundations, funds and corporations that are Grantmakers members. The study does not attempt to suggest the scope of charitable contributions by others, Samuels added.

The report, however, does include data from the two Pennsylvania-based titans of philanthropy: the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Annenberg Foundation. These two foundations are among the 10 largest in the nation in total giving. In 1997, Pew distributed $175.1 million in the region and beyond, while Annenberg Foundation grants totalled $97.2 million.

Samuels found that the booming economy helped boost grantmakers' assets. Thirty-four foundations reported assets for both 1996 and 1997. Their data showed that their combined assets grew from $6.3 billion to $7 billion, a 12 percent increase in one year. But their grants to nonprofit organizations grew even more. Foundations distributed $322.2 million in 1997, a 21 percent increase from the $267 million awarded the year before.

Five corporate foundations participating in the survey reported that their assets grew by 8 percent to $410 million in 1997, but that their grants increased by only 4 percent to $11.1 million. Mitchell said this was part of the national pattern for corporate foundations.

"There has been so much recent emphasis in corporations on the bottom line," she said. "They have not been putting as much into communities as in the past."

But that's not been the case at all corporate foundations. Safeguard Scientifics Inc., the Wayne venture-capital company, still gives 1.5 percent of pretax earnings to the Safeguard Foundation. Jerry Hogan, a semi-retired Safeguard executive who oversees the foundation, said Safeguard encourages employees to become involved in nonprofit organizations. The foundation then supports those institutions and groups. The foundation aids programs ranging from the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center to the Police Athletic League and the Pennsylvania Ballet.

Hogan said Safeguard's commitment to philanthropy reflects chairman Warren Musser's personal philosophy that giving back to the community is the right thing to do.

"That is the culture here," Hogan said.

Eighty-three percent of the $130 million that grantmakers distributed in Southeastern Pennsylvania in 1997 went to programs in Philadelphia, the report indicated. Agencies in Montgomery County were awarded 7 percent; organizations in Delaware and Chester Counties each received 4 percent of the grants; programs in Bucks County were given 2 percent.

Foundations making grants gave the greatest support to human-services programs, which received nearly one-third of the money distributed in 1997. Education received one-fifth.

Despite the recent attention given to support in Philadelphia for the Avenue of the Arts and similar projects, arts, culture and the humanities together accounted for only 10 percent of foundation grants.

"Nationally, we pretty much fall in line. . . . Giving to arts and culture, particularly by organized philanthropy, has gone down somewhat," Mitchell said. "Or it has not had the increase we have seen in other areas, such as education, health and human services."

She said that as corporations try to tie their giving to business strategies and their employees' interests, their support of the arts has declined. They are giving more to education, Mitchell said, "because they view that as their future."

Examples of strategic giving, she said, include IBM's donation of computers to schools and Cigna Corp.'s support of health-care programs for women and children.

Mitchell also said local foundations and organizations that have made contributions to the Avenue of the Arts may categorize their gifts as "economic development" rather than pure support for the arts.

Samuels said she hopes to be able to produce the report annually.

"It is a tool for us in communicating . . . the value of philanthropy in our community," she said. "That is, both in terms of outreach to new givers but also to those out there in the general public who might not otherwise understand what the giving potential is in this region."

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