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Report: Far from Home, WA Charitable Dollars Pay Off



May 11, 2011

SEATTLE - If every dollar you invested prompted a $114 return, that would be a winner. A new study from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) says that's the payoff for communities when charitable foundations have made grants in four southern states.

The South has seen its share of tragedy in recent years, including last month's killer tornadoes. Its people may emerge stronger, however, in part because organizations such as Seattle's Marguerite Casey Foundation are helping behind the scenes.

Marcus Littles, senior partner at Frontline Solutions, is a co-author of the report.

"It's both wanting to highlight how innovative organizations and communities are, and resilient - at the same time, to see that it's in the context of often being forgotten, under-invested in, and underestimated."

The study looked at 20 nonprofit groups in the South in a five-year period. Between them, they've curbed predatory lending practices, improved public schools, changed prison sentencing policies and more, according to Lisa Ranghelli, director of NCRP's Grantmaking for Community Impact Project.

"Foundations increasingly are seeing that they can play a role in supporting that, by educating people about the policy process, providing resources for folks to get various kinds of leadership training and to come together, and to identify solutions to common problems."

The Marguerite Casey Foundation awards grants to many Northwest nonprofits, but also invests in southern states, stepping up the pace after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Cynthia Renfro, director of programs and evaluations for the foundation, says the regions have some things in common.

"For poor people, no matter where they live, the problems are the same. It's disproportionately people of color. People are hungry, people can't get jobs, the education system fails them and housing is hard to access. I would say the issues are the same."

Some foundations and donors don't put money into advocacy and civic engagement because they're not sure how to measure the impact of their contributions, the NCRP says. The group hopes this report shows that it is worthwhile.

The report is online at ncrp.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA
 

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