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Record donations – Community foundations gain most

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Bay Area charitable foundations are receiving record donations in spite of the stock market downturn earlier this year, the San Jose Mercury reported June 26.

The Peninsula Community Foundation has pulled in $102 million in the last six months – the same amount it took in during all of 1999. Community Foundation Silicon Valley’s assets grew from about $290 million last year to $500 million this year. The East Bay Community Foundation received $36.5 million this fiscal year, compared to $22 million the previous year.

The flow of money slowed to a trickle in March, when the Nasdaq fell almost 40 percent, but the slowdown was only temporary.

Foundations are doing well nationwide, but Silicon Valley’s growth rate is astonishing, Dot Ridings told the Mercury. Ridings is president of the Council on Foundations in Washington, D.C.

There are several reasons for the charity boom: a strong economy, the trillion-dollar transfer of wealth to baby boomers from their parents, and a new generation of donors who are discovering the emotional and spiritual rewards of giving.

In the valley, foundation managers say, high-profile givers such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates and eBay Vice President Jeff Skoll are leading the way for others.

Community foundations, which allow donors to establish funds and direct donations, are the biggest beneficiaries of the new philanthropy. Some other organizations feel they are being passed over, however.

United Way Silicon Valley nearly went bankrupt last year. The group expects to raise about $22.5 million this fiscal year, which is still below the donation levels of the early 1990s.

Les White, the charity’s interim chief executor, says his organization has not attracted dot-com donors because it funds relatively unglamorous programs, such as health and human services organizations.

For full text, go to the San Jose Mercury.

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