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Giving: A passing grade.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Oregonians are slightly more generous than average, with the state placing 18th in the nation in the percentage of income given to charities and other philanthropic organizations. That's not bad, but a survey by the Oregon Community Foundation also calls attention to areas in need of improvement.

The 18th-place ranking is better than it looks, because Oregon is not an affluent state - Oregonians' average adjusted gross income, according to the Internal Revenue Service, is 25th in the nation. Oregonians at all income levels contribute a greater percentage of their money to charities than the national average. Those earning less than $100,000 a year gave 1.71 percent, compared to 1.56 percent nationally. Oregonians with incomes greater than $200,000 gave 3.64 percent, compared to 3.29 percent nationally.

Contributions by individuals make up 59 percent of the charitable giving in Oregon. That's up from 55 percent in 1990. Individual contributions have helped compensate for a steep decline in charitable giving by businesses, which fell 46 percent between 1990 and 2001 and now makes up only 16.3 percent of the total.

The Oregon Community Foundation notes that the decline in business giving occurred during a decade when the economy was robust, and attributes it partly to several major companies' having moved their headquarters out of Oregon.

Gifts from foundations, however, have helped fill the gap. The roaring stock market of the 1990s caused Oregon foundations' assets to nearly triple since 1987, while their number has increased by 54 percent. The growth has allowed foundations' share of donations to reach 24.7 percent in 2001, up from 14.6 percent in 1990.

Charitable and philanthropic organizations rely not only on gifts of money, but also of time. The report cites a worrisome trend: Only 23 percent of Oregonians work more than 50 hours a year for a community organization, down from 30 percent in 1990. Oregon has slipped below the national average of 30 percent in this area. Voluntarism and financial contributions tend to go together - people who work for charitable organizations become aware of their communities' needs and become more motivated to give. Nationally, volunteers give more than twice as much money to charities as nonvolunteers. A decline in the number of volunteers in Oregon could eventually result in a decline in individual giving.

Utah has the country's most generous people - they give 4.92 percent of their incomes to charities. Wyoming is a distant second, at 2.71 percent. The community foundation believes Oregon should aspire to be No. 1, but notes that an increase of just over half a percentage point would put the state ahead of Wyoming. The foundation offers a six-point plan for stimulating charitable giving in Oregon:

Challenge all Oregonians to do at least 50 hours of volunteer work each year.

Encourage Oregonians to give an additional 0.5 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations. For a person with a yearly income of $40,000, that would mean an increase of $200, or about $4 a week.

Study the possibility of making charitable contributions deductible on all state income tax returns. Currently, a deduction is available only to the 32 percent of taxpayers who file itemized returns. A universal deduction would extend the tax benefit of charitable giving to all taxpayers.

Work to increase business donations, and encourage businesses to make it easier for employees to donate time and money.

Get school children involved in volunteer work.

Help charities and nonprofit organizations attract and train volunteers.

None of these recommendations, with the minor exception of the expanded tax deduction, would cost public money. All of them would make Oregon a better place to live.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Survey places Oregon 18th in philanthropy; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:616
Previous Article:Letters in the Editor's Mailbag.
Next Article:Liberties under siege.


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