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Community Concerns

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by Jan Horton

I am truly honored and truly nervous! at the prospect of writing a regular column for the Springfield Business Journal.

My beat, as I understand it, is philanthropy and community-building activities a field in which I've spent much of my career in Springfield, from the days when I had staff responsibility for the teleauctions for KOZK-TV, to my current position as head of the Community Foundation in Springfield.

This field is studded with outstanding individuals and dynamic organizations, and in this column I hope to introduce readers to some of Springfield's most effective "givers" and most compelling opportunities for giving and participating.

The word philanthropy comes from the Greek philanthropia, literally, love for mankind. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary states it is, "altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by a donation of money, property or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes."

In America, this love of our fellow man is practiced in a manner that is unique in the world today. In most nations, government provides the social services that are often made possible in America thanks to private philanthropy.

Private giving in America is growing every year, and is becoming increasingly necessary because of government devolution, or reduction in services. Philanthropy, however, cannot ever assume the costs of the social services now provided by government.

In a recent study, it was found that if all the assets of all the foundations of this country were placed where government social service programs now exist, it would take less than a year to wipe out forever those endowed funds, thereby depriving society of a myriad of useful grants and scholarships which annually benefit organizations and individuals.

Some figures might provide a snapshot of where America's charitable dollars go. The AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, which publishes an annual accounting of philanthropy called Giving, U.S.A., states that in 1997 Americans gave $143.46 billion to charity, up from $133.46 billion in 1996 (a 7.5 percent increase), continuing an upward trend that has not stalled in years.

There were increases in every one of the four major segments of giving; giving by living individuals ($109.26 billion,up 6.8 percent), giving by bequest ($12.63 billion, up 10 percent), giving by foundations not including corporate foundations ($13.37 billion, up 11.4 percent), and giving by corporations and corporate foundations ($8.2 billion, up 7.5 percent).

The interesting fact in these figures is that giving by individuals accounts for $109.26 billion, and the other three categories combined account for only $34.2 billion.

Another way to look at it is, 71 percent of all charitable dollars was given by living individuals and the remaining 24 percent by foundations, bequests and corporations combined.

This is often news to charitable organizations who find themselves in need of funds and spend a disproportionate amount of their resources seeking donations from the corporate sector or the foundation world, when living individuals are their best prospects.

AAFRC divides giving into eight categories. Giving to religious organizations accounts for almost half of all giving at $70.66 billion, or 48.6 percent, as it has since this survey began (a local study of about five years ago indicated that this figure was closer to 60 percent in the Springfield area).

All other categories; giving to environment and wildlife organizations, giving to religious congregations and denominations, giving to health organizations, giving to human service organizations, giving to international affairs, giving to public/society benefit, and giving to arts, culture and humanities organizations, compete for the other half of the charitable dollar. In 1997 every category except arts, culture and humanities posted increases (arts, culture and humanities had a 2.8 percent decrease).

Philanthropy is alive, well and flourishing here in the Ozarks. For instance, in the hearts of the school kids in Seymour, who went on a "loose change" campaign last year to help raise funds for their new community library.

The fund-raising plan was simple but unique; kids would ask their parents and friends to give up their pocket change of the moment to the drive. Then they would drop by the Seymour Bank and deposit the loose change to the account set up for the library.

Since the fund was held here at the Community Foundation, I enjoyed receiving the deposit tickets showing interesting amounts such as 25 cents to $3.56 and the impressive amount of $50.12.

To me, the best part was that the bank displayed the name of the school child who brought in the most money each week on its electronic billboard for the whole town to see. This activity for the kids making a contribution they could see for their community not only brought home the importance of that library to those future patrons, but let them know they were important in their community. They were needed and they were appreciated.

Today, the Seymour Library, thanks to a challenge gift of $300,000 by former Seymour citizen Blaine A. Childress, matched by the citizens, organizations and businesses of the Seymour area, is finished, after a five-year fund-raising effort, and will have its formal dedication in October.

Now that's philanthropy on a community-wide basis!

In another wonderful example of local philanthropy, the Baird Family stepped forward with a challenge grant when The Kitchen faced a funding shortfall this year and asked the community to join them in helping out.

This challenge was met and exceeded because of the philanthropy of donors large and small, including one donor who mailed in two one-dollar bills folded in paper. The campaign enabled the Kitchen to continue its fine work of helping folks get back on their feet.

Where do the charitable dollars come from to accomplish these things? Tune in next time, and I'll talk about an $11 trillion transfer of wealth from one generation to the next that is projected to occur in the next 15 years.

(Jan Horton is President and CEO of Community Foundation of the Ozarks, a 25-year-old nonprofit organization serving the community by encouraging philanthropy through the establishment of endowment funds, grantmaking, and convening others around community issues.)


1997 Philanthropic Giving

Religious congregations and denominations $70.66 billion

Education $21.51 billion

Health organizations $14.03 billion

Human service organizations $12.66 billion

Arts, culture and humanities organizations $10.62 billion

Public/society benefit organizations 1 $8.38 billion

Environment and wildlife organizations $4.09 billion

International affairs $1.96 billion

1Civil rights, public affairs, consumer protection, scientific research and community development.[[In-content Ad]]


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