WHEN THE GIVING IS GONE OLD-LINE CHARITIES FEEL LEFT
BEHIND IN NEW ECONOMY
By Dolores Kong
The Boston Globe
The new economy has been good to Waltham. This old
mill town has attracted a healthy share of the dot-com
start-ups and technology- related companies that have
driven the current business boom.
Tell that to the Rev. Steven Lopes. Despite all the
new economy prosperity in Waltham, Lopes can't seem to
get local high-tech companies interested in helping
with the Salvation Army's traditional Christmas kettle
Lopes isn't asking for the moon - just a gift of $30
to sponsor a kettle for day. But his letters to some
of the nation's fastest- growing dot-com companies
have gone unanswered.
As of Wednesday, he had commitments from just 25
volunteer bell ringers to staff the kettles in front
of local stores. Last season he had 150 offers.
"We're just struggling. The way we're trying to reach
them is not working," said Lopes, who with his wife,
the Rev. Valerie Lopes, commands the Salvation Army's
Waltham post. They're worried they won't raise the
$75,000 they were counting on this holiday season for
such projects as a soup kitchen for the homeless and
elderly and a free after-school program for children.
Other than one high-tech company, which signed up for
a one-week kettle sponsorship at $150, "We haven't had
much luck with the dot- coms," Lopes said.
In a 24/7, go-go new economy, the
kettle-and-bell-ringer approach to charitable giving
may be too old economy. Across the country,
particularly in high-tech meccas like California and
Massachusetts, a clash of styles in giving has
traditional charities and philanthropic- minded people
They call it a paradigm shift, and they're trying to
understand it. Old-line charities that don't adapt
could become road kill. Philanthropies that don't
connect could miss out on new money.
"In paradigm shifts, the institutions which are
identified with the old model often go under," said
George McCully, trustee of the Ellis L. Phillips
Foundation in Boston.
"The institutions which dominated philanthropy, even
the kinds of institutions that dominated philanthropy
in the last half of the 20th century, are having to
reconsider themselves," said McCully, a coordinator of
the Phillips Foundation's annual "Catalogue for
For traditional charities here, the problem may be
compounded by a finding from the foundation's
Generosity Index: Massasachusetts was dead last out of
50 states. Taxpayers here were among the stingiest
when it comes to giving despite one of the nation's
highest average adjusted gross incomes, according to
the index, which is based on statistics from 1998
federal tax returns filed by taxpayers who itemized
Giving itself is changing. Today it has to be fun and
result- oriented. It's got to be "venture
philanthropy," or a good return on investment. So area
charities are trying to find ways to connect with this
new way of giving.
For instance, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay not
only offers its traditional payroll deduction program,
it also has begun allowing online pledging through
www.uwmb.org and access to volunteer opportunities
"We recognize we need to take our traditional
strengths and turn them into venues for people who
will not necessarily do it in the old way," said
Patricia Brandes, chief operating officer for the
United Way of Massachusetts Bay.
And the Salvation Army, first founded in the 1800s, is
allowing donors to make pledges online at the
Massachusetts division's Web site for the first
time,at www.salvationarmy-ma.org, as well as at the
national Web site, www.salvationarmy.org.
The charity is not forsaking its traditional
fund-raising, however. "It's essential to the history
of the organization," said Tina Martin, communications
manager for the Massachusetts division. "When the
average person in the street thinks of the Salvation
Army, certainly the bell ringer comes to mind. This is
our lifeblood here."
As traditional charities reinvent themselves, the
high-tech industry and people who work in the sector
are redefining philanthropy.
Instead of working with existing charities, many in
the new economy are forming their own private
foundations to address specific issues hands-on.
Others are strictly offering in-kind contributions and
In the last few years, Massachusetts has seen an
approximate doubling of the number of new private
foundations formed every year, according to an
analysis by Jankowski Associates Inc., a Maryland firm
that analyzed federal filings for the Forum of
Regional Associations of Grantmakers. In 1996, 90 new
foundations formed in the state; in 1999, the number
reached 167. While the analysis doesn't specify where
the foundations get their assets from, some of it most
likely comes from new economy wealth.
Even though many of the new foundations are relatively
small, "it really is a good news story" that there's
been a steady growth in the numbers, said Sally
Peabody, president of the Boston-based Associated
Grantmakers of Massachusetts, which received the
analysis as a member of the grantmakers forum.
Perhaps one of the first such new economy based
foundations in Massachusetts is the New England
Hi-Tech Charity Foundation, founded in 1992.
The first few years of fund-raising were rough,
especially with "the reputation that New England has
as not being very charitable," said Jim Coffey,
director of charities for the foundation and regional
manager for Kawasaki LSI, a Japanese semiconductor
firm with offices in Massachusetts. But last year, he
said, the foundation donated nearly $300,000 directly
to 18 children's charities, with the support of such
companies as CMGI, ZiLOG, EMC, and others. The
foundation also works with an organization called
Boston Cares, which sets up volunteer opportunities
for companies and individuals.
Last month, Akamai Technologies Inc. announced the
formation of a foundation to boost math training
efforts. TechFoundation is being set up in Cambridge
with new economy money, to specifically help nonprofit
organizations span the so-called digital divide, and
it expects to give out about $2 million to $3 million
next year, according to David Altshuler, chief
executive of the foundation.
The high-tech industry is also turning to volunteer
efforts and community involvement days, activities
that don't show up on any dollar-based generosity
index but give participants a sense of immediate
Castle Graphic of Concord gives back by donating
services and time to Toys for Tots in Boston. Earlier
this month the company wrapped two of its vehicles in
large format digital graphics to serve as toy delivery
mobiles. It also hosts the charity's Web site,
www.toysfortotsboston.org, among other things.
"We don't do United Way because all they want is
money," said David King, director of operations for
the firm that was founded by his wife, Danielle King.
"No matter what you give to them, you never get to see
the reward. Even if you donated a million dollars, you
would never see what that goes into."
Some of the clash between old and new ways of giving
may be the result of a generational gap and
differences in stages of business development. Small
start-ups headed by younger entrepreneurs may be less
likely to contribute money to something like the
United Way. Larger tech companies led by older baby
boomers may give in both old and new ways. Akamai, for
instance, participates in traditional United Way
campaigns, while also engaging in new private
foundations set up with new economy money.
New way of giving or old, the Salvation Army's Lopes
welcomes either. And he remains optimistic knowing
that the Salvation Army is one of the oldest charities
in the nation and has survived multiple economic
booms, busts, and transformations already.
"We're not giving up hope," Lopes said.