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High-tech giving – Charity flows from tech sector

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The high-tech industry has revamped the economy of Washington, D.C., and now it’s changing the region’s charity, the Washington Post reports.

Now employing more people than the federal government in Washington, the region’s high-tech community fueled $84 million in contributions from the region’s top 25 corporations in 1999.

Corporate giving in the region grew 74 percent in the last two years, the Post reports.

“We are on the verge of another transformation that will profoundly change philanthropy,” said Alex Orfinger, publisher of the Washington Business Journal.

The latest sign of the change was the announcement Thursday by billionaire Mike Saylor, chief executive officer of MicroStrategy, that he will give contribute $100 million to create a free, online “Ivy League” university.

Saylor also announced he had hired three interim advisers for the project and outlined the plan to local business leaders, The Washington Post reports.

Saylor’s announcement made him the star of the Greater Washington Business Philanthropy Summit, which has seen an explosion in charitable giving from the local high-tech community since it was established in 1998.

“With growth comes a sense of responsibility,” said keynote speaker Steve Case, chief executive of America Online, whose $3.3 million in gifts last year made him Washington’s eighth-biggest corporate donor.

The region’s top corporate giver, the Fannie Mae Foundation, contributed $16.6 million to local charities – double the amount needed to rank first in 1997.

At that time, donors could make the top 25 list by giving $282,000. In 1999, it took more than $893,000.

That level of giving could surge, the Post says, if investment in the region is channeled toard charity. Leaders of foundations spawned by “old money” already are encouraging the philanthropic potential of “new money.”

For example, the president of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation – created by the family that owns the Washington Post – announced at the summit the creation of a “New Ventures in Philanthropy” initiative.

The effort is sponsored and funded by the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and offers to “help donors give efficiently and effectively.”

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