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"BSI helped incubate our organization, build our capacity, and move us to independence. Throughout, they demonstrated a belief in our ability to succeed, a knack for knowing when to initiate ideas with the board, and a willingness to “fill in the blanks” when we most needed it."

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Lewis and Clark County Community Foundation
Philanthropic Divide

The Philanthropic Divide -- What is it?
The term "Philanthropic Divide," coined by Big Sky Institute for the Advancement of Nonprofits, draws attention to the huge disparities of foundation asset growth in the United States between those 10 states with the least assets and those with the most. Additionally, this gap has been growing dramatically:

  • 1988 data pegged the gap at $9.3 billion
  • 1998 data pegged the gap at $25.8 billion
  • 2005 data pegged the gap at $36.1 billion

The Philanthropic Divide states face a complex phenomenon of limited philanthropic and nonprofit sector resources and infrastructure. These limitations put the 10 Divide states at a competitive disadvantage with their counterparts in other states. Additionally, Philanthropic Divide nonprofits cope with operating conditions that present the extreme manifestation of the barriers and challenges confronting nonprofits in rural American more generally.

BSI's Philanthropic Divide research documenting the limited in-state foundation assets and low per capita grantmaking became the lightning rod to draw attention to these states. BSI's current research examines a larger set of philanthropic measuring sticks and associated nonprofit sector metrics. Preliminary findings suggest that the number of states will be greater than the current 10.

Articles about the Philanthropic Divide:

Harrington, John. "New Guide Helps Estates Keep Legacies At Home," The Independent Record

Montana Governor's Task Force on Endowments and Philanthropy. "Montana: The Current Philanthropic Environment."

Schechtman, Michael. "'Stuck Situations' in the Philanthropic Divide: The Need for Nonprofit Capacity," Philanthropy & Rural America, The Council on Foundations.

Perry, Suzanne. "Small Town Philanthropy," The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Swierzewski, Rachael. Rural Philanthropy: Building Dialogue from Within, The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

Cohen, Rick. "Rural Grantmaking for What?," The Nonprofit Quarterly.

For additional background information about the Philanthropic Divide, the Commentary published in Foundation News and Commentary (PDF, 100K) in 2002 provides a concise overview.

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