What’s Up with All These Philanthropy Studies in Philadelphia?

The Greater Philadelphia Chapter’s Association of Fundraising Professionals recently released the results of a city-centric survey about how philanthropists in the Philadelphia area are getting younger, more diverse, more socially tolerant and less emotional.

Related: Are Philadelphia’s Philanthropists Getting Younger?

Now, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia just released a separate report about local giving around the city after meeting with more than 350 nonprofit, philanthropy, and government professionals. So what’s the deal with all these philanthropic studies in Philadelphia, and why has research been such a priority for local leaders?

There’s been a big push for analysis since Philadelphia was identified as a city with one of the largest recent drops in charitable giving. After pouring over some serious IRS data, the Chronicle of Philanthropy discovered that giving in Philadelphia dropped by 10.3 percent between 2006 and 2012. This was the second-biggest drop in the nation after Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York, which saw a 10.6 percent drop.

By studying priorities, trends, and key players in the five-country Philadelphia area, the local Philanthropy Network hopes to unify funders around the most pressing regional issues. Unlike some other similar studies, this one included donors and corporations that are often left out of the equation.

Approximately $248 million was reported as the amount of total charitable dollars in the region; however, Debra Kahn, Executive Director of Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia says that the true figure is actually much higher.

Regardless, things are looking up for Philadelphia philanthropy, as this new study reported a 10 percent boost in giving between 2011 and 2013. This is an indication that the Philadelphia region is slowly bouncing back from the recession and beginning to prosper again.

Another interesting trend that these studies reveal is that education is the top priority, pretty much across the board. In fact, education accounted for nearly one-third of regional grant dollars awarded by respondents. And it doesn’t seem like support for education will be wavering anytime soon. Funders involved in the study cited public education in the city as a top concern.  

However, local funders haven’t forgotten about arts & culture or human services either. Arts & culture causes received about 22 percent of local giving in 2013 and 18 percent went to human services. As part of the Network’s new Sparking Solutions initiative, homelessness, early literacy, healthy eating, access to healthcare, and youth safety were also identified as hot issues for Philadelphia philanthropists in the years ahead.

Philadelphia philanthropy is in a period of transition, but it’s an exciting one with a lot of potential. Everything is in flux – the demographics, the priorities, evolving needs, and the major players. With a better understanding of the local giving scene, now is the time to start putting all this research to work for the good of the city.

“Philanthropy requires hard work and an informed approach to have a meaningful impact,” said Susan Segal, President of Philanthropy Network’s Board of Directors and Program Officer at the Lincoln Financial Foundation. “When we share information like this study, and connect with each other through the Network, we will collectively give smarter and achieve greater good for the region.”