Increasing the Impact of Philanthropy in Houston

There are thousands of non-profit organizations in the Houston area. They compete for local philanthropic dollars. One local foundation is working with those organizations to help extend the network of potential donors. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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The Greater Houston Community Foundation is itself a non-profit. President Steve Maislin says the organization exists to increase the amount and impact of charitable giving in the Houston community.

"You've seen an enormous explosion in the number of non-profits over the last number of years, and so there is real competition for the philanthropic dollar, if you will. But there is a high level of giving in this community, but there are so many needs. I think what you see is just the demand for dollars, which has probably always been the case, outstrips the supply of it. But I think, by and large, it's a good environment for non-profits but they do have to be out there competing for the resources."

Maislin says there are about 1,500 area organizations with a budget of $100,000 or more. Of those, he estimates about 600 could use help connecting the organization with charitable donors. That's why the foundation has launched a new web-based database to get information about non-profits directly into the hands citizens. Maislin says it helps the organizations find new funding sources, but it also helps people make more informed philanthropic decisions.

"People will give away more money and be more impactful if they have better information about the non-profit organizations out in the community. And so the idea of having a format that would be available 24/7, that would be kind of a standardized template where people could go out there and search for organizations that address issues that are important to them and have opportunities to give funds to them seemed like a particularly powerful idea."

Houstonians participated in a significant philanthropic outpouring after last year's hurricane season. But Maislin says, despite some initial donor fatigue, giving remains strong. Several foundations provide funding to support this effort to connect donors with non-profits. One of the funding partners is the Hobby Family Foundation. Paul Hobby says philanthropy is something every person should consider because, as he puts it, "your humanity is tied to your giving."

"If you want to leave this place better than you found it, and I'm talking about Houston and I'm talking about Texas, we are always a community that's been incredibly charitable and incredibly willing to let the non-profit sector lead certain activities that in other places governments do, and our way tends to be better because you get better yield on your dollar and you get more passion in your volunteers that are implementing the project. And certainly, that was our experience with the music hall foundation and the Hobby Center downtown."

Hobby says philanthropy exists at all financial levels and his goal is to garner both large and small contributions to provide support for a wide array of local organizations. You can find more information on this effort on our website, KUHF dot org. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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