Who knew frugal saver Katherine Kinnicutt's $2 million gift to the area United Way still would rank as one of Tampa Bay's big donor gifts of 2013?
After all, hefty philanthropic gifts in recent years typically dwarf such relatively modest sums. In 2012, Kiran and Pallavi Patel, frequent big-buck donors in this area, gave $12 million to the University of South Florida.
In 2011, Frank and Carol Morsani committed $20 million to the University of South Florida's medical school. And in 2010, Shriner's Hospital for Children in Tampa received $10 million from Dorothy Morris, a timber magnate's widow, to build a burn unit in Alabama.
Kinnicutt, a Vassar graduate with a penchant for reading IRS code, lived simply in Safety Harbor and worked 25 years at Raymond James Financial. After she died, her $2 million bequest still ranks among this year's big area gifts — barring a late entry before the end of December.
High-level philanthropy in this region and across the state seems to have taken a vacation in 2013, even as Tampa Bay's economy continues to gather steam. It's too early to call it a trend. But it is a concern, especially since middle-class budgets are under growing pressure. Philanthropy experts predict the reliance on wealthy donors will only grow in importance.
Donations to 400 major charities in this country grew just 4 percent last year, slightly more than half the gain in 2011. This year at United Way Worldwide, for example, the nation's No. 1 charitable organization is only treading water. And the recent forecast for 2013 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy is troubling: It shows a projected decrease of 1 percent in overall giving.
It's not just about who is — or isn't — giving. It's about where the philanthropy is going. Florida charities still see plenty of donations going out of state.
Of 41 philanthropic gifts by Floridians of $1 million or more this year, 19 were sent out of state — perpetuating Florida's challenge of winning the hearts and wallets of rich residents who live here but keep stronger ties elsewhere.
In 2012, of 47 gifts by Floridians of $1 million or more, 19 also went out of state. And in 2011, of 39 such gifts, 21 landed out of state.
So far this year in Florida, philanthropic donations of at least $1 million or more totaling $118 million stayed in state. An additional $84 million in gifts of $1 million or more went from generous Floridians to organizations based in other states.
It's a familiar theme. Florida tends to draw wealthy people as residents in their later years, if only for the state's tax benefits. But their financial loyalties often don't transfer along with the households and remain tied to alma maters or charitable groups "back home" in other states.
The impact can be substantial. Richard and Helen DeVos, for example, whose money comes from cofounding Amway, are prominent in Orlando as owners of the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team. Yet the couple gave $20 million this year to the symphony in Grand Rapids, Mich., Richard DeVos' hometown, and $10 million more to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in Virginia.
Similar $20 million gifts this year went to Duke University in North Carolina and DePauw University in Indiana from wealthy givers who call Florida home.
USF, usually a winner among recipients of major donors, has yet to score a big gift in 2013, based on annual giving data collected by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Nationally among the super-wealthy, 2013's shaping up as a pretty generous year — despite a slow U.S. economic rebound.
Leonard Lauder, whose wealth stems largely from the cosmetic giant Estée Lauder Cos., pledged a remarkable $1 billion to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Phil and Penelope Knight, a billionaire couple thanks to his founding Nike, committed $500 million for cancer research to the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. And Michael Bloomberg, outgoing New York City mayor and billionaire from founding financial media giant Bloomberg LP, donated $350 million to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, his alma mater.
Florida boasts just one philanthropic donation in nearly a decade that tops $100 million — the 2008 gift of $225 million to the Patterson Foundation in Sarasota by the estate of Dorothy Clarke Patterson.
Such is Florida's charitable challenge. How does a state awash in wealth persuade big givers to keep more of those dollars inside the Sunshine State?
Robert Trigaux can be reached at email@example.com.