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Originally published Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 8:22 PM

Charitable giving rises in U.S. for 1st time in 3 years

The economy hasn't been good for a while, but philanthropy in the United States increased in 2010 for the first time since 2007, according to a report by Giving USA, which monitors charitable giving.

Cox Newspapers

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DAYTON, Ohio — The economy hasn't been good for a while, but philanthropy in the United States increased in 2010 for the first time since 2007, according to a report by Giving USA, which monitors charitable giving.

Overall giving in the U.S. rose 3.8 percent in 2010.

Robert Evans, a national consultant to nonprofits, said the "hot category is donor-advised funds," which allow people to create accounts with money, securities and/or works of art.

Two of the three biggest national funds reported double-digit growth. Fidelity Charitable was up 31 percent. Vanguard Charitable was up 19 percent.

The news recently has been about the tumbling stock market. Ironically, it was the stock market last year that fueled the increase in giving, said Evans, managing director of the EHL Consulting Group and a review-board member of Giving USA.

"Moderately wealthy and wealthy individuals found themselves with appreciated securities, which is something that hadn't happened for a while," he said. "Clients who transfer shares and other assets to charitable gift funds avoid capital-gains taxes and earn tax deductions for gifts to charities."

Does that mean the stock-market slide will put a halt to charitable giving? Not necessarily, if Evans is proved right.

"It's not all about investment growth and avoiding taxes," he said. "People also want to be generous. Two-thirds of households in America give to charity. That figure holds steady."

During the year ending June 30, 2010, the Dayton Foundation in Ohio brought in more money — $64.2 million — than all but a dozen of the country's 737 other grant-making community foundations. That was more than those based in Dallas, San Francisco, Houston, Nashville, San Diego, Denver, Cincinnati and Cleveland, which were also among the year's top 25 in giving.

The Dayton Foundation, with $371 million in total assets, can't match the scale and returns of national charitable gift funds, including Fidelity, Vanguard, Schwab and others, that were established in the mid-1980s, but it can and does make a giant-sized imprint on the local community.

The foundation, though hardly a household name locally, is the second-oldest among 700 community foundations in the country.

Earlier this year, the Dayton Foundation passed the $500 million mark for total grants issued in the Miami Valley.

Nationally, community foundations reduced grants for the second year in a row in 2010, according to a report by the New York-based Foundation Center, which said they were more affected by the economic downturn than corporate foundations were.

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