Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Running against the tide

Charitable giving to funds at the Coastal Community Foundation is up 8% while giving, nationwide, to foundations is down 19.7%. What accounts for this 27.7 percentage point spread on the upside? Before you read more, guess. Why is the Lowcountry running so strongly against the tide? Why is charitable giving to Coastal Community Foundation way up compared to the rest of the nation?

So how many of you guessed it is something in the water? That's the most common response I get when I ask this question at Rotary Club presentations or national meetings of community foundation professionals. Of course that answer is tongue-in-cheek, but there is some truth to the idea. Our waters attract nature-lovers of all types, fishing-types, hunters, birdwatchers, and people who like the serenity of a marsh or a swamp. It keeps those here who love the outdoors. The beauty of the Lowcountry attracts early retirees who have money, self-motivation, and moxie. They seek connection with the Lowcountry and eventually get involved with our nonprofits. The waters also draw families back to the Lowcountry, such that if a child goes away to make their fortune they come back and give back. Looked at this way, our water is part of the reason charitable giving remains strong. We attract people who have made money elsewhere. We get the best of the economic engine that has created new wealth in this nation.

The second most common answer I hear for why giving is up is that living on the coast makes our communities self-reliant and resilient. Being in a hurricane zone will do that to you. You come together when there is a crisis. Coastal Community Foundation grew dramatically in the time of Hugo. It also made us stronger during this economic downturn.

So if these ideas do not float your boat, then what's your explanation for the outpouring of charitable giving in the Lowcountry? If not the waters, then what?

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