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Big-Donor Dollars: How Many Do Calif. Causes Actually Receive?

Grant making from big donors grew by only 5 percentage points in recent years, according to the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy. (Wonder woman0731)
Grant making from big donors grew by only 5 percentage points in recent years, according to the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy. (Wonder woman0731)
January 26, 2017

LOS ANGELES – Amid the sharp contrast between the ultra-rich and desperately poor, a watchdog group has been following where big-money donation dollars are going.

A recent study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) shows that only a small percentage of the money raised by many charitable foundations actually gets to the people they claim to serve.

And this comes at a time when the coffers of philanthropic groups have swollen, even during the Great Recession.

"The 1,000 largest U.S. foundations are still giving less than a third of their grant making to those populations," states Ryan Schlegel a senior research and policy associate at the NCRP.

According to the NCRP, the assets of the country's grant-making foundations increased by more than $320 billion in recent years.

It's not all bad news. On the list of top-20 givers is The California Endowment, which NCRP says gives 79 percent of California grants to social justice organizations.

Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at The California Endowment, attributes that group’s success to "active listening" to the community.

He cites as a recent example how The California Endowment caught onto the fact that lower-income Californians were experiencing a disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions in secondary school.

Together with students and families, Zingale says the endowment helped raise the awareness of lawmakers and media to impact school discipline reform.

"There are dramatic reductions in those numbers of kids being kicked out, cut by as much as half in many parts of the state,” he points out. “So that's a real change, to have kids' discipline problems being resolved in a healthier way within the school setting rather than kicking them to the curb."

The NCRP studied giving between 2003 and 2013 and says the groups it studied have an opportunity to make a real impact on persistent poverty, systemic racism and violence directed at people on the margins of society.

John D. Rockefeller III initially funded the watchdog group.

Logan Pollard, Public News Service - CA