Charitable giving on upswing at beginning of holiday season

A year after many large nonprofits raised alarm bells about donor fatigue following deadly hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis worldwide, local charitable giving has shown a major increase.

The steady growth in the economy and record highs in the stock market have propelled many in the Bay Area to give more this year, according to Dr. Sandra Hernández, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation. The foundation manages more than $600 million annually in about 500 charitable funds for local families, plus another $300 million endowment. In the past year, Hernán-

dez said, the organization has seen a 147 percent increase in donations, from $23.5 million a year ago to $58 million.

Perhaps more important for the nonprofits and families who receive much of that money, grants have increased 29 percent to $49 million, compared with $38 million in 2005, Hernández said.

“It’s a very good year, relative to last year,” she said. “There’s a lot of wealth being made, but also an ever-present notion that families are being left behind.”

The Peninsula Community Foundation, which performs the same function in San Mateo County, has seen a record 25 percent jump in the funds it manages, pushing its managed assets to $465 million, according to Ash McNeely, foundation vice president. The owners of those funds have, in turn, given a combined $96 million to charities so far this year, surpassing last year’s $92 million, McNeely said.

The United Way also has seen increased generosity leading up to the “giving season,” Executive Vice President Eric McDonnell said. In fact, to a large extent, the donor fatigue that made headlines following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 never materialized in the Bay Area, according to United Way, which estimates one in four Bay Area residents struggles to make ends meet.

Of the 330 Bay Area nonprofits surveyed by United Way in October, 86 percent said they were “very” or “cautiously” optimistic about the coming year’s prospects. While contributions are on the upswing, so is demand. An estimated 69 percent of Bay Area nonprofits projected increased service need, the United Way survey showed.

For those ministering to the Bay Area’s neediest, such as Salvation Army Division Commander Joe Posillico at the Golden State branch the big donations couldn’t come at a better time. Despite the improving economy, many of the less fortunate havebeen overlooked, Posillico said.

Still weeks before the peak Christmas charity season, the need for home-delivered meals in San Francisco rose 18 percent to about 2,000 people more than a year ago, Posillico said. By Christmas, that number is expected to climb even higher. More people falling through the cracks is a result of the escalating cost of living.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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