Guest Column

Giving to make a better world

As we approach the Nov. 25 anniversary of Andrew Carnegie's birth, we should celebrate the generosity in deed and spirit by the David A. Straz Jr. family in making the single largest individual philanthropic gift to a cultural institution in the Tampa Bay area.

Carnegie, of course, is widely known for his charitable works in the late 1800s, including the donation of swimming pools, libraries and hospitals.

Last week, the Straz family made the sizable gift to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, which — in his honor, but not at his request — has been renamed the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

Those of us at the performing arts center are very grateful to the Straz family, and to all of our donors, for their belief in us and our mission. Certainly the support of companies is vital to nonprofit organizations. However, it's the support of individuals — whether in a large amount like the Straz family or in more modest sums — that provides 90 percent of the charitable giving in this country.

Since its opening 23 years ago, this performing arts center has been fortunate to have the support of thousands of people. As with all nonprofit performing arts institutions, ticket sales never cover the costs of programming the theaters and classrooms or operating the facility. Donations help us maintain and expand our buildings, enhance our educational programs and subsidize important programming that cannot pay for itself.

Our major supporters have provided truly heartfelt sentiments when they announced their gifts to the performing arts center.

"We all have a responsibility to leave this life a little better because of our involvement," Frank and Carol Morsani said a few years ago.

Richard Gonzmart of the Gonzmart Family Foundation said something similar. "It would be easy to keep the money. But that's not the responsible thing. That's not what my parents and grandparents would do. That's not what I want my kids to do," he said.

So we applaud all donors, at all levels, for continuing the great American tradition of choosing to give rather than to keep, and for providing an example to all of us of how we might share the resources with which we have been blessed for the betterment of our communities.

As Dr. Kiran Patel said so well, "We were fortunate in being blessed with resources which will now provide opportunity and hope for others."

In the end, it has little to do with a name on a building but everything to do with creating a better world now and for the future.

Judith Lisi is the president and CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, formerly the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Giving to make a better world 11/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 23, 2009 6:22pm]

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