Barring an end-of-year surprise, the $12 million commitment from Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel to transform a University of South Florida graduate program in Tampa into USF's College of Global Sustainability should be the top act of philanthropy in Tampa Bay in 2012.
It's an impressive gift, one of many the Patel couple has provided to the university, a nearby hospital and other area recipients. Their $12 million gift is the fourth largest given to any Florida organization this year, according to data kept by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which tracks giving in America.
Nationwide, though, the Patel gift lands about 85th in size in the 2012 ranks of U.S. philanthropy. That's not to undermine such generosity. But it is a reminder that, while Florida is about to become the nation's third largest state in population, its institutions of all kinds remain modest recipients of philanthropy compared to those in wealthier states.
Once again, much of the philanthropy practiced by rich Florida residents — who inevitably moved here from somewhere else — continues to go "back home" to out-of-state universities, medical facilities and various cultural organizations.
Few, if any other, large states seem to wrestle on such a scale with such transient giving.
But few other large states have such a striking lack of major corporate headquarters as Florida. Big corporations and their founders/CEOs tend to be the nation's primary source of big dollar giving. Think Bill Gates and Microsoft, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, and Phil Knight and Nike, among many others.
Let's slice the numbers on 2012 giving in Florida:
• The top five donors (from any U.S. state) to Florida recipients gave or pledged a total of $102 million this year
• The top five Florida residents donated $129.5 million this year. But only $72 million went to Florida institutions, while $57.5 million was given to organizations in other states.
• Nationwide, the top five philanthropists in 2012 gave or pledged $3.575 billion. That's almost 50 times what Florida's five top givers donated to in-state institutions.
Consider that New York is getting $925 million this year from the five top givers to that state. The state of Washington gets $310 million. California's getting $230 million from its top five givers. Oregon gets $292 million.
Texas had an off year, getting only $78 million despite its size, mammoth corporate base and in-state wealth from the energy industry.
Next year may be different.
Beyond the Patels' philanthropy to USF, nobody came close with big gifts in 2012 in this metro area. Bill and Hazel Hough's $2 million gift to the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg ranked as the next biggest contribution, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Kiran Patel's wealth was built on his buying and growing WellCare into a national Medicaid HMO, then selling it in 2002. Bill Hough started his own municipal bond and investment business in St. Petersburg called William R. Hough & Co. and sold it in 2004 to RBC Dain Rauscher, part of the Royal Bank of Canada.
Earlier this year, the Florida Aquarium was expecting a $1 million donation from Publix's founding family, but came away with more than double that after two anonymous donors added to the gift. The expansion paid for from these gifts and others would be the first in 17 years for the Channel District aquarium. Last year, the Mosaic Co., a major fertilizer business, donated $2.5 million to the campaign, the largest single donation in the aquarium's history.
In the Tampa Bay area and amid a deep recession and slow recovery, USF clearly enjoys being the biggest recipient of recent philanthropy. In addition to the Patel gift in 2012, USF received $20 million in 2011 from retired Tampa automotive dealer Frank and Carol Morsani, whose name will become part of the university's medical school.
Also enjoying substantial donations in recent years is Tampa-based Shriner's International, Saint Leo University in Pasco County as well as All Children's Hospital and the Canterbury School in St. Petersburg.
Five years ago, Texas banker (and melanoma survivor) Don Adam, who started American Momentum Bank in Tampa, pledged $20.4 million to Tampa's H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute for the creation of the Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center.
Kudos to such philanthropic generosity. Here's to promoting a stronger, bigger base of business in the Tampa Bay area. Building more of the local wealth will encourage greater and more frequent giving right here.
Contact Robert Trigaux at firstname.lastname@example.org.