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Charlie Stewart

A Time to Give
The nonprofit organizations that help make our area so special
are relying on us all to be generous this holiday season.


CSIt's the holiday season, a busy time consumed with shopping, baking, and entertaining, all with friends and family in mind. And it’s also the time to respond to those year-end appeals from our favorite charities, which are counting on us in a big way.

To jump-start this season of giving, the second annual national day of giving—known as #GivingTuesday—is planned for December 3. Coming right after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, the day is the centerpiece of a campaign to celebrate and encourage charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations across the country. Last year, the first #GivingTuesday drew donations to about 2,600 nonprofits.

We are certainly a charitable nation—and Pittsburgh is no exception.

Americans donated an estimated $316 billion to charitable causes in 2012, up 3.5 percent from the previous year, according to the 2013 edition of Giving USA, an annual report on charitable giving in America released by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. The report notes that nearly three-quarters of the money donated was given by individuals (see page 97).

CS“Philanthropy is a growth industry,” says Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, which was ahead of the curve five years ago when it initiated its own Day of Giving. Through this 24-hour marathon giving event, more than $7.7 million was raised this past October for regional nonprofits, with the number of individual donations, $18,194, up from last year.

Right:An internationally recognized professional ballet company, PBT performs traditional and contemporary ballets and develops innovative works. It seeks to perpetuate excellence in the art of ballet through its performances, school, and community initiatives.

As one of the largest grant-making foundations in the city, The Pittsburgh Foundation exemplifies the growing generosity of Pittsburghers, awarding $43.4 million in grants in 2012 while administering a pool of 1,900 donoradvised funds. A donor-advised fund is a named endowment fund that can be established for a minimum donation of $10,000. It allows the donor to recommend grants to specific nonprofit organizations, while taking advantage of the foundation’s knowledge of community issues and needs.

CS“The Pittsburgh Foundation is a place for people who are serious about their philanthropy, who want to do it well, and especially have some connection with Pittsburgh as a community,” Oliphant says.

He has observed a “generational shift” in giving behavior, with more active involvement by younger donors. That might take the form of serving on a board or visiting an organization—a hands-on way to experience the impact of a gift.

Right: SCC connects children and adults with artists and free creative experiences at its Strip District gallery and in the community. Its programs include exhibitions, classes, a drop-in art project for families, and a retail store with artist-made merchandise.

“The mindset today is much more focused on engaged giving,” Oliphant says. “So, whereas the previous generation might have gone to the symphony and written a check, today’s givers are still likely to write a check to those organizations that they support, but they want to know that there is an outcome for that money.”

It all adds up to a fabulous reputation for the city when it comes to charitable giving.

“Pittsburgh has a long tradition and rich history of being philanthropic, with so many civicminded and private organizations that are dedicated to improving the community,” says AdrieneCS

Davis Kalugyer, manager of public affairs at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Right: Consistent with Jewish values and tradition, the JAA honors and enhances the lives of older adults by offering a comprehensive network of social, residential, rehabilitation, medical, and nutritional services.

Bob Nelkin, president and chief professional officer of United Way of Allegheny County, agrees.

Right: Together, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum are home to thousands of exhibition spaces that make us wonder— about our world, the universe, the past, and the future.

“We are one of the most generous cities in the country,” says Nelkin, a lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill.

The United Way is well known for its fall workplace campaign, whereby employees of local companies commit to a payroll deduction for the benefit of local charities. With 725 local companies running or participating in the campaign— and 60,000 employees fulfilling their pledge—$33.2 million was raised in 2012. Moreover, United Way of Allegheny County has experienced a 12.7 percent growth rate in fundraising from 2006 to 2011.

Operating on only a 12 percent overhead—less than half the national average—the United Way distributes its funds to health and human services charities selected by the donors from a list of 2,300 organizations. It also allocates monies to 62 agencies identified in the Impact Fund that address four vital needs: preparing children and youth to succeed in school and life; assisting financially struggling adults and families; helping frail seniors live safely in their homes; and helping people with disabilities live safely.

One particular area of growth Nelkin points out is the Women’s Leadership Council, which now has 1,800 members donating $1,000 or more, making it the sixth largest in the country—and growing.

CS“There is a lot of data in studies that says women are more likely to give to charities than men and are more likely to give more than men,” says Nelkin, who credits the United Way’s success to word-of-mouth.

Another philanthropic powerhouse in our community is the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Left: This three-theater performing arts center in Oakland is home to four Point Park University companies that stage 18 productions annually, ranging from beloved musicals and classic dramas to provocative new works and cutting edge dances.

“In a sense, within the Jewish community, we are both The Pittsburgh Foundation and the United Way,” says Jeff Finkelstein, the Federation’s president and CEO. “We run an annual campaign, and the United Way runs an annual campaign; and we also have a foundation the way The Pittsburgh Foundation has a foundation. So we’re kind of both of those entities.”

Some 4,600 donors contributed $13.35 million to the Federation’s 2013 unrestricted annual campaign, an increase of $350,000 over last year. The foundation raised $14 million in new contributions, bringing its total to a record $180 million under management.

“I always talk about us being the mutual fund of the Jewish community,” Finkelstein says. “A donor can invest in the Federation, and then through our planning processes, through our staff and amazing volunteers, we figure out where we get the most bang for the buck within the Jewish community for that investment.”


The Federation gave away nearly $19 million in 2012, most of which focused on its four areas of high priority: aging and human needs, Israel and world Jewry, Jewish community life, and lifelong Jewish learning.

Over the past six years, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has been in the top three in per-capita giving among its large-city peer group of 19 Federations.

Above Left: This Squirrel Hill landmark meets the needs and improves the quality of life for children with special needs and their families by providing medical, educational, therapy, and social services.

Above Right: Committed to long-term buying relationships in places where skilled artisans are under- or unemployed, this Squirrel Hill fair trade store offers international merchandise and a wide range of outreach programs that connect local organizations to artisans around the world.

“We see this as the community chest, and it really goes back in Jewish tradition to everybody in the community giving back to the community,” Finkelstein says. “In Jewish tradition, in our Talmud, it talks about something called the kupah, the central pot. And it actually says that even the person who has to receive money from that pot has to give back to the community. So with that obligation to supporting the community, we make an effort to approach everybody.”

CSWith so many options for giving, consulting a financial advisor to take a more strategic approach to philanthropy can be a wise move.

Fox Chapel resident Ahmie Baum, managing director of The Baum Consulting Group/UBS Financial Services, Inc., says most people have a modus operandi he calls “checkbook philanthropy”—writing out a check for $100 here, a couple hundred dollars there, and maybe another thousand here.

Left: New play development is the focus of this South Side theater, dedicated to a full season of all new work. It commissions and produces plays by writers at the forefront of the industry.

“The problem with checkbook philanthropy,” explains Baum, “is people don’t realize that if they have investments that have done well, such as appreciated securities, it may be better to use those to make a charitable contribution rather than cash, because then you don’t have to pay the capital gains taxes, and you still get the deduction.”

He instead advocates a more thoughtful, multi-disciplinary process involving legal, accounting, insurance, investment, and banking professionals working as a team.

“In going through a collaborative, comprehensive wealth management process, one of the outcomes is it shows people where they may have more capacity for charitable giving while they are alive, rather than what traditionally happens, which is, ‘Well, I’ll just take care of it when I’m dead,’” Baum says.

Colin Rosenberg, executive director, wealth management at Morgan Stanley, likes his clients to take many factors into account when it comes to charitable giving, especially with longer life expectancies and increasing health care costs.

“We always encourage our clients to consider their overall financial picture before committing to philanthropic giving,” says Rosenberg, who lives in Squirrel Hill. “It is essential to budget charitable contributions just as one budgets other costs, such as living expenses, health insurance, travel, and any other financial goals.”


Above left: Glass art is the mission at PGC— to teach it, to create it, to promote it, and to support those who make it. Through classes, a contemporary glass gallery, and a state-of-the-art studio, it is fostering a new generation of glass artists and enthusiasts.

Above Center: By matching adult volunteers with children facing adversity, this mentoring network fosters positive relationships that make an extraordinary and transformative difference in the lives of young people.

Above Right: Providing college scholarships to transform the lives of children and vitalize our region, The Promise is a big idea and a concrete commitment to all children who graduate from Pittsburgh Public Schools and who live in the City of Pittsburgh.

CSWith the recent bull market, Rosenberg says people are more generous, but not to the degree one might think compared to tighter times.

“I do believe that people will be more charitably inclined when they feel that they have more money,” he says. “But by the same token, a lot of people are charitably inclined to begin with and try not to let the good years or the bad years affect their ability to give. They realize that these charities are counting on their money, and that without these monies, a lot of charities are not going to be able to do the great work that they do.”

Right: Operating a food pantry is just one way JF&CS helps people struggling with unemployment, poverty, aging, and other life challenges. It provides psychological, employment, and social services to those going through lifecycle transitions and crises.

Jayne Adair, executive director of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, says her organization depends on individual contributors, almost all of whom attend Ten Literary Evenings, the nonprofit’s popular Monday Night Lecture Series, held at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.

CS“They are the heart and soul of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures,” Adair says of donors. “Our contributors are people who like what we are doing, who have given to us before and are most likely to contribute again.”

Adair, who lives in Squirrel Hill, believes that the more “touches” she and her small staff have with an individual donor—whether in person or on the phone, by e-mail or regular mail—the better the chance of keeping them on board.

Left: Located in an economically distressed community, WCDC promotes revitalization and economic development by strengthening the business district, marketing the community, and forming strategic partnerships.

“And probably the most profound touch is when I can introduce you to Jeffrey Toobin or Ann Patchett or another writer that you’ve wanted to meet for a long time,” she says. “That’s something we can offer that no one else can.”

CSWhether it’s grant writing or soliciting donations online, raising money for a nonprofit is demanding. With approximately 3,000 registered nonprofits in Pittsburgh, there’s plenty of competition for funding. That’s especially true for arts organizations, which receive just 5 percent of charitable giving nationwide (see page 97). Fortunately for Pittsburgh, local corporations and foundations are answering the call of need.

Right: In partnership with the city, PPC works to restore Pittsburgh’s park system to excellence, undertaking capital projects that have included the Highland Park Entry Garden and Oakland’s Schenley Plaza.

“Pittsburgh really enjoys substantial support for the arts from the philanthropic community, and we also have the benefit of higher foundation support than most other cities,” says Joseph B. Smith, senior vice president of marketing for Dollar Bank and board chair of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. “But getting the individuals out to support the arts is something that’s a great goal for all cities, and I think Pittsburgh on average supports that on a little lower level than cities our size.”

CSDollar Bank has been the title sponsor for the Three Rivers Arts Festival the past three years— one the many reasons it is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Philanthropic Organization from the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

“With revenue streams from the government having been cut in recent years, it really makes it more and more important for individuals, and even businesses like Dollar Bank, to increasingly try to support the arts,” Smith says.

Left: Offering intimate, engaging, professional theater, the Public produces classics of the American theater, masterworks from the international repertoire, world premieres, contemporary plays, and musicals of exceptional merit.

CSEnvironmental issues generate even fewer contributions than the arts.

Brenda Smith, executive director of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association gasped when shown that the environment sits near the bottom of the priority list for most donors. “No wonder it’s so hard!” she says of her organization’s fundraising efforts.

Right Engaging our community in literacy and learning, CLP offers a welcoming place for learners of all ages, providing programs, books, and access to technology that support both self-directed and guided learning experiences.:

CSFounded in 2001, the association is the steward of the 6.5 square miles of the Nine Mile Run watershed, which includes areas within Regent Square, Point Breeze, Edgewood, and Squirrel Hill. Between 2003 and 2006, the portion of Nine Mile Run stream that runs through Frick Park was the site of the largest and most successful urban stream and wetland restoration ever undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Right: With a focus on the highest quality of life possible, this organization is dedicated to providing compassionate care and living options that enhance the lives of older adults and meet their changing needs.

The watershed is home to 48,000 people, 250 plant species, 22 different mammals, and 189 types of birds—and the goal of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association is to address the water quality problems that still exist by reducing the flow of storm water and sewage into the stream.

CSSmith, a Squirrel Hill resident, is extremely grateful for foundation support, which provides 68 percent of her budget. But she believes it’s also important for nonprofits to investigate ways to generate earned income, as long as the social enterprise is related to the mission. Under the brand StormWorks, the association has developed a market-based approach to storm water management by installing rain barrels and designing rain gardens for homes and businesses.

Left: To provide young people with character-building and life skills lessons, golf is the platform for this organization, which also operates the Bob O'Connor Golf Course in Schenley Park, now an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course.

“If you can find a way to solve part of the problem you are trying to solve in a way that people will pay for, long term, that’s even more sustainable than getting people to just give you money,” Smith says.

Some altruistic efforts are so big that they prompt the formation of booster organizations to get all hands on deck. That’s the approach Fox Chapel resident Mardi Royston has taken since she first heard about The Pittsburgh Promise.

This scholarship program, unlike any other in the country, has a goal of raising $250 million to fund up to $40,000 for the post-secondary school education of each local student who is “Promise-ready,” regardless of financial need. “Promise-ready” means being a city resident and a Pittsburgh Public Schools student continuously since at least ninth grade, graduating from one of the district’s schools or charter high schools, having at least a 2.5 GPA and 90 percent attendance record, and being admitted to a post-secondary school in Pennsylvania.

CS“When I first learned of The Pittsburgh Promise, I was immediately affected by what a bold, daring, innovative, and overwhelming commitment it was,” Royston says. “To put Pittsburgh on a stage like that, and say this is what we are going to do, well, we can’t fail.”

Royston assembled a group of friends who founded the Keepers of The Promise last December with the goal of raising awareness in the larger community while growing the membership. Keepers are asked to make a minimum contribution of $300 and then commit to inform and attract additional Keepers. To date, they have expanded to more than 130 members and have raised more than $60,000, including UPMC’s match of $1 for every $1.50 the Keepers raised.

Above Left: A cultural and architectural centerpiece of Oakland, Phipps strives to inspire and educate with the beauty and importance of plants, to advance sustainability and promote human and environmental wellbeing, and to celebrate its historic glasshouse.

Above Right: At the forefront of music drama, Opera Theater presents new works, old works in new ways, and opera sung in English for all ages during SummerFest in July at Oakland's Twentieth Century Club and also through year-round education programs.

CS“The Keepers is a wonderful way for caring folks who are committed to this region and invested in their communities to say we are going to help make sure that we deliver on this promise,” says Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise.

Clearly, everyone in our community is playing a part—from our foundations to corporations and on down to the individual level.

Right: With recreational, educational, and social services available to the entire community, the JCC offers child care and preschool, camping, adult activities, fitness and wellness opportunities, special needs services, arts and cultural activities, and other programs.

CS“I think Pittsburgh is blessed…because this is just a giving town,” the Jewish Federation’s Finkelstein says. “There are deep roots here, and people really care about this community. It’s longterm commitments from families who have been here for generations. And we’ve got lots of new people coming into town, and they become Pittsburghers immediately and love this place and want to give back. It’s exciting.”

Left: As this area’s only independent public radio news and information station, WESA gives voice to provocative ideas that foster a vibrant and informed community, while WYEP provides fresh, alternative music.

With many thanks to SHADY AVE magazine for granting me permission to reprint on my website.


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