Md. foundations gave 7% more in 2004

January 03, 2007|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

Maryland foundations gave 7 percent more money in 2004 than they did the year before, growth that topped the average increase nationwide, a new report shows.

Across the country, foundations increased their giving by about 5 percent, according to a study by the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

That growth reflects two years of stock market recovery after the recession of 2001. Stocks rebounded in 2003 and 2004, giving foundations better returns on their investments. Foundation assets increased about 9 percent in Maryland and 7 percent nationwide in 2004.

Most giving in America is by individuals, but foundations play an important role. The Johns Hopkins University, far and away the largest local grant recipient in 2004, credits foundations with helping to finance diverse projects from new buildings to scholarships for city teens.

"It's absolutely vital support," said Debbie Perrone, director of foundation relations at the Baltimore university.

An increase in foundation grants is also good economic news for the state. In 2004, Maryland nonprofits added jobs at a faster rate than for-profit businesses, while employing more people than all local governments combined, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

"We have a wealthy state, and one would hope in a wealthy state, we would see strong charitable giving," said Betsy Nelson, executive director of the grantmakers association.

The association's year-end report found that foundations also are forming at a fast clip. Between 1997 and 2004, the number in Maryland grew by two-thirds, to just over 1,400. Foundation grants more than doubled in that period.

Even so, charities might find it tougher to get their funds, said Peter V. Berns, executive director of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations. Local charities are multiplying at a rate of about 100 a month, and more are turning to foundations for help as other sources of money dry up.

"There's a lot of trepidation in the nonprofit community about what's happening with federal government and state government funding," Berns said.

Richard L. Sprott, executive director of the Ellison Medical Foundation in Bethesda, which finances research on the biology of aging, said the group has had to refocus its spending recently to try to keep laboratories afloat after federal funds were cut.

"What we're hoping is that other foundations will do what we do - which is try to get various scientific and artistic endeavors through what's going to be a very difficult period," Sprott said.

The Ellison Medical Foundation has no assets but channels the millions of dollars it gets annually from Lawrence J. Ellison, founder of the Oracle software company and one of the wealthiest men in America.

National and international foundations remained the largest givers of those based in Maryland in 2004. The Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, which focuses on disadvantaged children and their families, ranked No. 1 by handing out about $171 million in grants.

About 13 percent went to the foundation's efforts in the state. Its key project in the city is supporting new homes and a biotech park in a blighted part of East Baltimore.

Here and elsewhere, "there's a huge need to be met," said Burt Sonenstein, vice president for finance and administration at Casey.

Another top giver is the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation in Owings Mills, which typically gives about a third of its nearly $100 million in annual grants to Maryland groups.

A newer trend in philanthropy is foundations and foundation-like outfits formed by individuals and families who aren't super rich. Smaller foundations are popping up. And both community foundations and "donor-advised funds" are acting as managers for those who want to give generously and regularly.

The T. Rowe Price Program for Charitable Giving, a donor-advised fund, has grown steadily to nearly 2,000 accounts - with $25,000 on average each, for more than $48 million in all - since its formation six years ago. Donors get an immediate tax deduction. They then decide how to distribute the money over time, said program President Ann Allston Boyce.

"We're seeing some shifts as more and more people are starting their own foundations," said Trent Stamp, president of nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator. "It's not just the Fords and the Rockefellers anymore."

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