Helping Others

Record year for charitable giving points to regional trend

From left, Vivian Lin, 7, Katie Locke, 8, and Chloe Lantern, 5, with grandmother, Marilyn Cottini, all of Sacramento, decorate party hats at the five year celebration for the Crocker Art Museum expansion in downtown Sacramento on Saturday October 10, 2015.
From left, Vivian Lin, 7, Katie Locke, 8, and Chloe Lantern, 5, with grandmother, Marilyn Cottini, all of Sacramento, decorate party hats at the five year celebration for the Crocker Art Museum expansion in downtown Sacramento on Saturday October 10, 2015. apayne@sacbee.com

Charitable giving scored a banner year in 2015 with the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, the largest area manager of charitable funds to nonprofits, posting a record year for new funds established.

That increase may signal an upturn in giving in a region that has historically trailed the rest of the nation, especially among young people, experts said.

The foundation manages 570 charitable funds for donors who direct dollars to selected nonprofits. Last year, the foundation added 52 new charitable funds – the largest number of funds added in one year since the organization was founded in 1983. Those funds brought in $8.2 million in 2015.

“I feel the Sacramento region is coming of age, charitably speaking,” said Shirlee Tully, marketing and development officer with the foundation. “The region is coming into its own in understanding that giving to support local institutions makes the community that much stronger.”

The foundation operates like an investment house for charitable accounts opened by donors in Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado and Placer counties. Foundation donors can direct grants to nonprofit groups of their choice as often as they like, or in perpetuity, in the case of endowed funds.

In 2014, the foundation saw the establishment of 44 new funds with $5.8 million. In 2013, 33 new funds were established, and between 2008 and 2011, an average of 23 new funds were added annually, Tully said.

Typically, the bulk of foundation dollars go to health and human services and education nonprofit groups.

The proportion of funds endowed in perpetuity rose from 68 percent in 2013 to 74 percent in 2015. “Having the percent of assets in perpetuity grow means that donors are in it for the long term,” Tully said.

Even with the new fund activity, the organization’s overall assets dipped in 2015 to $118 million, compared with $120 million the year before, due to the amount of grant funds that went out to nonprofits and volatility in investment returns, Tully said.

Nationally, Americans gave $358 billion to charity in 2014, which was the highest yearly amount since 2008, according to the most recent tally from Giving USA, a Chicago-based group that has tracked giving in the United States for the last 60 years.

“The figure reached in 2014 is the highest we’ve recorded ever,” said Aggie Sweeney, vice chair of the Giving USA Foundation. She said the 2014 number was boosted by a flurry of mega-gifts of $200 million or more.

In 2010, an analysis commissioned by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation found that charitable giving rates in the Sacramento region trailed national measures, especially among people under 40 years old making less than $50,000 annually. That group gave 11 percent less than the similar demographic nationally. The only categories where the region fared better than national rates were among 40- to 64-year-olds, and households whose yearly income was higher than $100,000.

At the Sacramento foundation, most donors have been older than 55, Tully said. In 2015, only four out of the 52 new funds involved charitable gifts from individuals under age 40.

Among those younger givers were recently married Sacramento-area millennials Natalie Franks, 28, and Brian Franks, 32.

Both were hit hard by the recession and found themselves unemployed, said Natalie Franks.

After his company closed, Brian Franks started a wholesale outlet business out of the couple’s one-bedroom apartment, later opening two stores selling liquidated closeout items from major retailers at wholesale prices online.

“The business has done very well in recent years, mainly due to the shift in culture,” Natalie Franks said. “Customers are now more conscious of household spending.”

The Frankses decided it was time to give money back to the community and chose the Sun Grove Church in Elk Grove as their first giving destination. “The church recently provided financial literacy courses to the community, which emphasized the importance of giving at all income levels as part of acting out our faith as Christians, and this encouraged us to develop long-term goals for our family giving,” Natalie Franks said.

The couple also gave to Junior Achievement of Sacramento, which teaches young people financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce development skills.

The growth in new funds in the Sacramento region, coupled with the year-over-year success of a 3-year-old fundraising event called Big Day of Giving, shows the region is coming into its own with charitable giving, Tully said.

To date, the Sacramento region has distinguished itself in the one-day national fundraising project, which is organized by the national group Give Local America. It was offered for the first time in Sacramento in 2013, when the 68 arts groups that participated received about $500,000.

In 2014, the Big Day of Giving included all of the region’s nonprofit groups, with 300 nonprofits receiving about $3 million. In 2015, the Big Day of Giving mushroomed to 529 nonprofit participants and raised $5.6 million.

The Crocker Art Museum has seen a significant jump in funds raised from the Big Day of Giving, with donations growing from $9,200 in 2014 to $26,700 last year, said Lial Jones, the Crocker’s executive director.

Lori Finch, vice president of community giving at Give Local America, said the amount raised in Sacramento during the Big Day of Giving last year was the fourth highest among communities nationwide.

“The Sacramento region has done an incredible job if you look at year-over-year growth,” Finch said.

Edward Ortiz: 916-321-1071, @edwardortiz

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