Nearly 500 of St. Louis’ nonprofit organization and foundation leaders, board members, staff and volunteers gathered at the Edison Theatre on the Wash U campus last week to be among the first to learn the results of an annual survey on philanthropic giving in the region. This was the first time I attended this annual event presented by the Rome Group.
It was great seeing the Edison Theatre filled at 8:30 on a weekday morning with representatives from so many of St. Louis’ nonprofit leaders. But what was really impressive was that nearly 75 percent of the more than 200 nonprofits and 95 grant makers surveyed reached their fundraising goals in 2013. What’s more, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed expect contributions to increase in 2014. This is the highest annual giving report in St. Louis since before the recession. The survey, conducted by the Rome Group, in partnership with the Gateway Center for Giving and the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation, mirrors a national trend in charitable giving which is up 4.4 percent over 2012.
So, what does this mean for you and me? Beyond the fact that as St. Louisians, we can be proud knowing that we’re there for each other, it’s good news for business and our economy. According to a 2010 economic impact study on foundation grant makers conducted by the Philanthropic Collaborative, the nearly $38 billion (yes, with a “B” during the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression) in grants awarded across the country that year contributed significantly to job creation, wages, GDP, and tax revenues. According to the report, 500,000 new jobs were created in 2010 thanks to foundation grants. That number expanded to 1 million jobs within a year when you factor in the impact on downstream organizations and backward linkages. Contrary to popular belief that when the grant money runs out, so do the jobs, this study demonstrates that foundations add significant long-term employment because of the return on investment overtime. Long-term economic benefits of philanthropy include:
reduced costs because of less juvenile crime;
reduced health care and social services costs; and
longer, better quality of life thanks to advancements in funded medical research.
Other benefits include improved worker education and productivity and a thriving business environment. So, with philanthropic giving in St. Louis continuing to strengthen, can solid business growth be far behind?