Charitable disconnect?

November 21, 2005

Are the assets of philanthropic organizations growing at the expense of the poor and low-income people they are often meant to serve? That may depend on where you live. In Maryland, and particularly in Baltimore, philanthropy is more targeted to the neediest residents than in the nation as a whole. That's good, but the need continues to grow.

A report released last week by the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG) shows that, like many corporations, foundations and other philanthropic organizations have been rebounding from the economic downturn that followed Sept. 11, 2001. Looking at the latest available data for the state, ABAG counted 1,350 foundations in Maryland in 2003 (down slightly from 2002), with total assets of $10.4 billion, a 15 percent increase. Yet total giving by these foundations in 2003 was $640 million, only a 3 percent increase from 2002. Similarly, assets of Baltimore area foundations rose 15 percent in 2003, while giving rose 2 percent.

But, despite these relatively small grant-making increases - which often lag behind asset changes - in Maryland, the top 500 foundations devoted 28 percent of their giving to human services, which help poor people most directly.

That's a significant departure from recent national trends. A June report by the Giving USA Foundation found that individual Americans and philanthropic organizations donated nearly $250 billion in 2004, but the proportion that went to human-service organizations was only 8 percent, a record low. That seems to turn charity on its head.

While Maryland beats the national average on spending for the poor, there's no reason to feel complacent. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the state's median household income fell and Baltimore's poverty rate rose in 2004. That philanthropic help comes none too soon.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.