The Power of Giving

It’s Vital to Thriving Communities!

From healing and educating to feeding the hungry and providing relief in times of crisis, the charitable sector is inextricably linked to our communities. Philanthropy’s independent role as an investor in innovation and a supporter of safety net services is more imperative than ever for restoring and sustaining a strong economy.


  • Nonprofits generate $1.1 trillion every year providing human services.
  • 1 in 10 Americans work for a nonprofit, providing 13.5 million jobs.
  • For every $1 a donor gets in tax relief, the public typically receives $3 of benefit. No other tax provision generates that kind of positive public impact.
  • Charitable giving has a more significant economic impact in America’s communities than previously understood. New research reveals the “ripple effect” of foundation grantmaking supports millions of jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth that extend for generations.

In good times and bad, local communities rely on the philanthropic sector’s support to provide a host of vital services. As lawmakers consider caps or limits to the value of the charitable deduction, consider what’s at stake in our communities:

  • In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Food Gatherers and its network of volunteers provide 10,000 meals every day and advocate on behalf of the citizens who rely on those meals.
  • The Sphinx Organization, based in Detroit, offers youth development initiatives that provide classical music education in underserved communities. In collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, they also have provided financial support for 1,500 minority classical musicians. 
  • The United Way of Southwest Louisiana works with partners to deliver nearly 55 programs and services that target community needs centered on the building blocks for a good life: education, income and health.
  • Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans has gutted or rebuilt 3,200 homes post-Katrina through its Operation Helping Hands program, and has provided counseling to 900,000 people.
  • The American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent and prepare for emergencies. In 2011, the chapter responded to over 300 disaster incidents in Northeast Ohio and trained over 87,000 people in CPR and first aid.
  • The Ohio Arts Council, a member of Americans for the Arts, provides funding each year to support more than 1,000 arts organizations, programs and artists throughout the state. 
  • Mass Audubon, a member of the Land Trust Alliance, works to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. With more than 100,000 members, Mass Audubon cares for 34,000 acres of conservation land in 90 Massachusetts communities and provides educational programs for 225,000 children and adults annually.

And that’s not all!  There are countless examples of the impact of the nonprofit sector in our communities, supported in large part through charitable giving: 

Responding When Disaster Strikes in New York

Relief charities responding to Hurricane Sandy-ravaged communities raised nearly $100 million in the few weeks following the storm, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. United Way of New York City and affiliates throughout the East set up a Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund (#sandyfund) to support affected communities through food, shelter, clothing, cleanup, and rebuilding. Catholic Charities USA also set up a Hurricane Sandy fund. Since Katrina, Catholic Charities USA and its nationwide network helped thousands of families recover and rebuild their lives after disasters.

Planning for a Strong Future in the San Francisco Bay Area

By 2040 there will be an estimated 1.1 million new jobs and 700,000 new households in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments. To make sure the region is ready to handle this growth effectively and responsibly, Silicon Valley Community Foundation joined together with area nonprofits and government agencies to launch the Envision Bay Area initiative. The initiative represented a pooled investment of funds from individuals, foundations and government of $737,000. The effort engages a broad range of residents and community leaders in conversations about growth. The foundation held a series of 10 public meetings and developed an interactive, web-based simulation tool to provide graphic illustrations of various growth scenarios. It helped the entire community see the long-term impacts planning decisions made today can have on issues ranging from transportation and public safety to housing, green space and clean air and water. The foundation conducted an online survey with 300 respondents and found 55 percent Fifty-five percent of those who were first-time attendees at such meetings said they were very likely to be involved with local or regional planning efforts in the future, signaling a high level of interest among a group of people new to the planning process.

Supporting Student Success in Cleveland

In Cleveland, only 63 percent of high school students earn a diploma, and just a third of those who do go to college. And only nine percent of those students go on to earn a degree within six years. Improving K–12 education is a top priority of the Cleveland Foundation, investing more than $10 million in the last five years to improve the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and associated charter schools. The foundation joined forces with the school district, the Cleveland Teachers Union, the George Gund Foundation, and other community partners to transform its school system into a high-performing one. Focused on innovation, excellence and accountability, 20 participating district and charter schools outperform their peers on almost every measure. And, the city has plans to expand this initiative to more schools in the district.

Revitalizing Neighborhoods in New Orleans

For more than 25 years, the Greater New Orleans Foundation has responded to community needs with investment of more than $100 million. But, it’s not the dollar amount as much as the way it was spent. After Katrina, the foundation knew it had to find a more effective way to respond in crisis. Recruiting partners from every sector, the foundation led a five-year, $25 million Community Revitalization Fund to expand affordable housing for families. In addition, the foundation also helped lead an effort to help realize Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s ambitious goal to dramatically reduce the number of blighted properties by 2014. A partnership was formed that included the Center for Community Progress, the New Orleans Development Authority and the City of New Orleans. To date, the community reduced the number of blighted properties by more than 3600, helped increase property values and made neighborhoods safer for families.

Providing a Safety Net in Tough Times in West Virginia

The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation (TGKVF) has been a partner to area nonprofits through efforts like its Safety Net Initiative to meet the staggering demand for emergency assistance with food, clothing, utilities, housing, and access to prescription medication. Through its partnership with one organization, the foundation was able to distribute more than 5,000 hygiene supplies, clothing vouchers and bus passes for adults struggling to prepare for work and job interviews. Another nonprofit was able to provide emergency rent and utility services to 150 households. More than 200 troubled youth received counseling and shelter though a third collaboration. By funding an additional nurse practitioner at a community health clinic, the foundation was able to help nearly 400 uninsured patients access critical health care services. 

Finding Solace and Self-awareness Through Art for troubled Teens in Des Moines 

Young people living in state-run group homes are learning to turn the page on their troubled pasts at the Des Moines Playhouse and Arts Center. The Des Moines Art Center provides weekly visual-arts sessions and the Des Moines Playhouse provides theatrical experiences for students. For example, teachers instruct students to make “altered books” – literally whiting out the pages of books and repainting them based on the emotions they feel. The class of seventh through 12-graders is made possible by an unusual collaboration between the nonprofit and the Des Moines Public Schools and the Polk County Juvenile Court. The students say the art helps them feel more in control over their destinies, and happier.

Fighting poverty and hunger and creating jobs in Washington, D.C.

The DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) is much more than a soup kitchen. It trains the homeless and former prisoners in the culinary arts and employs many of them in a catering service for public and private clients, including many social services agencies in the nation’s capital. DCCK employs more than 140 people, including 65 graduates of its culinary training program. Since 2008, the Kitchen’s 350 graduates have maintained a job placement rate of 90 percent, and 70 percent of those men and women came to the Kitchen with criminal records. An ex-offender who completes DCCK’s training program is 96 percent less likely to return to prison than the average ex-offender nationwide. This unique social enterprise would not be possible without leveraging giving from the community. Forty-five percent of DCCK’s revenue comes from charitable donations.

Providing access to libraries and the Internet in Bethel, PA

In the working-class community of Bethel, Pennsylvania, more than 40 percent of elementary school children qualify for free or reduced lunches. The community’s small library is regularly filled with children after school and circulates about 150,000 books each year. For many in the community, it’s also the only place to access the Internet. Last year, the people in Bethel raised more than $40,000 from generous donors to keep their library open, helping children improve their reading skills and providing a way for more people to find critical information about jobs, health care and more.

United Way Worldwide is the headquarters organization for a network of more than 1,200 local United Ways in America, located in virtually every county, city and town. The private donations to local United Ways are dedicated to improving people’s lives of millions of people every year. At almost $4 billion in 2012, it is the largest non-government funder of human services in the United States. According to the United Way, a 2.5 percent reduction in donations would result in 1.3 million fewer times that its network can provide job training services for an unemployed worker, home care for an elderly citizen, service supportive housing for a single mother, or a mentor or tutor for an at-risk young person.

California is home to more than 150,000 nonprofit organizations the nonprofit sector employs 750,000 people, engages 7 million volunteers and has purchasing power of $130 billion dollars each year. Largely supported through charitable giving, the diverse sector affect many aspects of society – from health and human services, to churches, universities, hospitals, private schools, museums, SPCAs, scientific research labs, wildlife protection, citizens rights organizations and more.

In 2011, according to the Council for Aid to Education, colleges and universities received $30.3 billion in charitable gifts. Private charitable donations and federal and state investments ensure access to higher education through student financial aid and support teaching, groundbreaking research and technological innovation, and other public service activities. For example, at the University of New Hampshire, more than two-thirds of charitable giving supports student aid. An additional 10 percent comprises grant support for research and teaching initiatives. The university’s partnership with private donors has delivered enormous economic benefits to our society, yet the partnership undergoing severe stress as the university faces great financial challenges, particularly significant losses in state support.

The Meals on Wheels Association of America is the oldest and largest national organization comprised of and representing local, community-based Senior Nutrition Programs. The organization serves 8.3 million seniors facing the threat of hunger in this country. According to Meals on Wheels, more than 90 of its programs rely on individual donations from Americans to serve in excess of one million meals every day to a vulnerable population of seniors in need of good nutrition. Nationally, only about 30 percent of total spending for Meals on Wheels programs comes from federal sources, with a significant number of programs receiving no government funding at all. Emerging research indicates that dollars invested in Meals on Wheels programs are linked to reduced healthcare expenditures. Yet, despite being proven and effective, Meals on Wheels programs are threatened. They are currently facing a quadruple whammy due to:

  1. The increased demand and need for services as a result of the growth of the senior population and skyrocketing numbers of seniors who face the threat of hunger;
  2. State and local budget cuts, coupled with the threat of sequestration and flat federal funding;
  3. Higher costs for food and transportation, which are essential components to Meals on Wheels programs; and
  4. Fewer and smaller private donations due to the slow economy.

United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey

has focused on long-term solutions that improve education for children, financial stability for families and good health for all, as well as those that strengthen the nonprofit sector and ensure that basic human needs are met. The organization partners with organizations through the region – public, private, nonprofit – to drive measurable, lasting impact that none of us could achieve alone. Our United Way serves the philanthropic interests of over 1,200 companies and nearly 100,000 donors from four counties in Pennsylvania and five counties in New Jersey. For example, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey equips children with the necessary tools to excel in school through its Success by Six program. Over the course of our three year funding cycle:

  • 100 early childhood education centers received high quality status as a Keystone Star 3 or higher as well as technical assistance, quality assessments, professional development and program improvement grants
  • 14,000 children experienced high-quality early childhood education
  • 15,000 parents and childcare providers are empowered with better parenting and teaching skills