Individuals' charity in Md. low, study says

But foundation, corporate donations are strong

April 13, 2001|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Individual giving in Maryland remains low compared to other states, according to a study made public today, but foundation and corporate giving in the state is strong, and new forms of philanthropy are emerging.

These are some of the findings of "The State of Giving in Maryland," released by the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. It is the group's first statewide study of philanthropic trends.

Betsy S. Nelson, executive director of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, says she hopes the study will encourage more giving in the state.

"We in Maryland have an unprecedented opportunity to further develop philanthropic traditions among our wealthiest citizens and to increase charitable investment in our community that will have impact for years to come," she says.

Although Maryland ranks fifth in per capita income, individual donors give less than their counterparts in other states, according to the study. Marylanders gave $2.9 billion to charities in 1998, but per capita giving falls below the national average, and the state's wealthiest residents give substantially less than the national average.

As a result, Maryland ranks 44th in the Generosity Index, which ranks states by charitable giving and income.

Although individual giving in Maryland is below average, the state ranks 16th in the country in foundation assets. As the economy grew in the mid-to-late 1990s, Maryland foundations grew, too, and giving increased. In 1999, Maryland foundations gave $445 million from endowment assets of $10.4 billion.

Most of that money -- 29 percent -- went to human service organizations. About a fifth went toward education. Health and religion each received 12 percent of the money; arts received 7 percent; and environmental causes received 2 percent.

The economy of the late 1990s boded well for new foundations as well as existing ones. About a third of the foundations in Central Maryland have been created since 1996. In their first four years, these foundations contributed more than $35.7 million in grants to charities. More than 90 were created last year. Despite the recent slowing of the economy, the study notes that this trend might continue as donors become more knowledgeable and sophisticated.

About three-fourths of the foundations in the state are based in Baltimore City and Baltimore and Montgomery counties. Between 1996 and 1999, twice as many foundations were created in Montgomery County than in Baltimore City or Baltimore County. But most of the state's foundation wealth -- nearly 80 percent -- remains in greater Baltimore.

Maryland's foundations give to organizations in all 50 states and in 16 countries, the study shows. Although most foundations give to charitable causes within the state, some of the larger foundations have a national focus. In 1998, just more than one-third of Maryland's grant-making dollars went to organizations serving the state.

But Maryland receives out-of-state money as well. In 1998, of the top 50 U.S. foundations awarding grants in Maryland, 38 were out of state. These 38 foundations gave grants totaling nearly $98 million.

Nationally, corporate giving rose 14.3 percent in 1999, the study says. It notes that corporate philanthropy is good not only for the community but also for the companies, because it contributes to employee loyalty and improves a company's image.

Numerous efforts are being made in the state to encourage more giving.

People are starting "giving circles," in which members pool money to support causes, and "funding collaboratives," which pool money from organizations. Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, director of the Baltimore Giving Project, notes a rise in "venture philanthropy," a nonprofit version of venture capitalism.

"Just as this region is entrepreneurial in business, it is innovative in its philanthropy," she says. "The Baltimore region is expanding the strength of traditional philanthropy as well as embracing new philanthropic vehicles."

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