Opinion

Project to spotlight what wealth can do

Inside View - June 2010

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Print this page Robert Powell

From 1989 to 2009, Virginia Business compiled a list of 100 of the wealthiest residents of Virginia. As we announced in our March issue, we are doing something different this year. June remains our wealth issue, but we are not chronicling how much money people have. We are looking at what they do with it.

We think this is an appropriate time to begin what we are calling The Generous Virginians Project. Since 2007, the General Assembly has had to make a series of increasingly severe budget cuts because of falling revenues. In the last round, legislators slashed spending to make up for a $4.2 billion shortfall. The cuts include $360 million in reduced funding for health care and social services.

Virginia’s nonprofits already are under stress from reduced donations because of the recession. Nonetheless, they expect to be called on to do more to fill gaps in the social safety net. The combination of increasing demands and lagging resources is taking its toll throughout the state, with some nonprofits consolidating their services just to survive.

In this context, the Generous Virginians Project looks at the innovative efforts by nonprofits (such as Earl Stafford’s nationwide Doing Good project) and the motivations of contributors and volunteers (Long Nguyen, Margaret “Peggy” Wyllie and Joseph Witt). We also look at how a unique combination of philanthropy and volunteerism maintains a high quality of life in the Northern Neck.

Last but not least, the project begins a list of generous Virginians, individuals and corporations that donated $50,000 or more during the worst recession since the Great Depression. The list is a work in progress. It will be updated continuously online at http://www.VirginiaBusiness.com

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The initial list is a sampling of donations. We surveyed 260 companies, 100 wealthy households and more than 100 nonprofit organizations asking for information on contributions.

Many that we contacted declined to participate, and others did not respond at all. That didn’t surprise us. But we hope that they will participate as the project progresses. We plan to broaden the survey each year.

Some readers may be tempted to compare the Generous Virginians Project to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s national list of major donors. We don’t deny that it is our inspiration, and its staff has been very helpful. According to them, the Generous Virginians Project is the only statewide list around.

We invite you to submit information for the list or participate in next year’s survey. Contact me at rpowell@virginabusiness.com.


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