Florida funders join forces

Philanthropy in Florida is big business and should have a greater influence on important policy issues, a new coalition of foundations in the state says.

Seven foundations have formed the Florida Philanthropic Network to organize and promote philanthropy, improve communication among nonprofits, business and government, and promote informed policy work by commissioning research.

The group also released a study tracking the economic impact of philanthropy on the state.

More than 50,000 Florida nonprofits employ 430,000 people, indirectly generate another 360,000 jobs, represent the sixth-largest industry in the state in employment, generate $61 billion in economic activity and more than $22 billion in personal income and spur 88 million hours of volunteer time equivalent to the work of 42,000 full-time employees, says the study.

It was commissioned by the Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center at Rollins College in Winter Park and funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation.

Other funders forming the new network are the Dade Community Foundation, Health Foundation of South Florida, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, all in Miami, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Palm Beach and the Allegany Franciscan Foundation in Clearwater.

Members of the network say that, despite its impact, the nonprofit sector cannot replace government. The $1.9 billion-asset Knight Foundation, for example, is less than half the size of the annual budget of the Miami-Dade School System and makes $100 million a year in grants throughout the U.S.

The economic-impact study will be published annually.

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