Giving in L.A.

December 9, 2016
Philanthropy is on the rise, but we have a ways to go to reach pre-recession levels of generosity.

Across Los Angeles County, there are more than 35,000 non profit organizations. Some find homes for pets and some find homes for people. Some prevent sexual and domestic violence and some prevent environmental devastation. Some try to improve the public school system and some try to improve the criminal justice system. Operating at a wide variety of scales, these non-profits are all similar in that they’re attempting to meet a need that’s not otherwise being met, whether from a lack of funding from the public sector or a lack of attention from society in general. These non-profits are able to function largely because of the generosity of donors and grant makers.

“Part of having a great quality of life in a community like Los Angeles is having strong schools, having strong museums, having strong civic organizations, in addition to having strong hospitals,” says DeAnn Marshall, senior vice president at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “None of those entities come together without community support.”

With one of the wealthiest economies in the world, a population of 10 million people and a philanthropic community of more than 2,500 locally headquartered foundations, L.A.’s pool of potential funders for these 35,000 nonprofits is uncommonly large. But actual giving in Los Angeles is relatively low. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s a 2015 analysis of giving in the country’s 50 largest cities by The Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine, the L.A. metropolitan area ranked 28th, giving just 2.8 percent% of overall income —– far below top-ranked Salt Lake City (5.4 percent), Memphis (5.1 percent) and Birmingham (4.8 percent), and just slightly above Detroit (2.7 percent). IRS tax deduction data shows that L.A. County has been slow to rebuild its charitable giving in the aftermath of the recession. In 2006 private donations amounted to $7.16 billion, a number that dropped to $5.5 billion at the nadir of the recession in 2009. By 2014, the latest year for which data is available, the number had climbed back up to around $6.4 billion. ...