Private sector greed? Billions in contributions tell a different story

Effective philanthropy requires a lot of time and creativity – the same kind of focus and skills that building a business requires.”
Bill Gates

So, here is a multiple-choice question:
Q. How much money has been given by the private sector and individuals to just 10 of Leon County’s most recognizable charities in the past 10 years?
a. $4 million
b. $10 million
c. $50 million
d. $100 million

Actually, this is a trick question. The answer is e.: ALL of the above. A, b, c and d added together.
Yes, in the last 10 years, the private sector and individuals in Tallahassee have given more than $164 million philanthropy dollars to these 10 familiar non-profits. And that doesn’t even count all the other giving – to churches, schools, national causes and more. That’s about one-sixth of a BILLION dollars.

Here is the breakdown of money given by the private sector and individuals to 10 of the most recognizable charities in Leon County:

  • Refuge House: $3,374,776.00
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters: $3,522,077.00
  • Junior League: $395,410.00
  • Leon County Humane Society: $2,911,929.00
  • Lighthouse Children’s Home: $9,264,905.00
  • United Way: $41,338,698.00
  • Second Harvest: $100,342,021.00
  • Tallahassee Museum: $1,143,766.00
  • Big Bend Homeless Coalition: $1,442,217
  • 2-1-1 of the Big Bend: $1,177,884.00

Those figures are gleaned from Form 990s, which are public record.

Taking a step back and looking at ALL charitable giving, in 2018 alone, total charitable donations in Leon County totaled more than $142 million. That, by the way, would pay half of Leon County’s entire annual operating budget.

Why are we telling you this?

Because we’re tired of hearing about the “greed” of the private sector. Nobody is forcing these businesses, private organizations and individuals to pay anything. They are choosing to do so – and the thanks they get are incendiary, divisive statements like these:

“Greed” is such a tired trope when it comes to the attempted demonization of the private sector and those who work in it.

It ignores all the people who rely on jobs within private sector – in particular, the blue-collar workers such as plumbers, painters, electricians, graders, landscapers, roofers and on and on and on.

And it ignores the reality that most large local businesses started as one-person shops and grew from there. These business owners took the risk and now provide hundreds of hundreds of jobs that keep our economy moving.

Those who demonize the private sector believe they are supporting “the public good.”

Ironically what opponents of the private sector fail to realize is that the local businesses actually fuel the public good by creating jobs, products and services that people need.

And by donating not thousands but millions of dollars to charity organizations.

Think about the issues facing our community, nation and world.

Did your list include any of these causes supported by local businesses in our random list of 10 familiar non-profits?

  • Poverty, through the United Way
  • Hunger, through Second Harvest
  • Blindness, through Lighthouse
  • Mentoring, through Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Animal welfare, through the Humane Society
  • Preserving our history, through the Tallahassee Museum
  • Providing clothing, through the Junior League
  • Homelessness, through the Big Bend Homeless Coalition
  • Community information, through 2-1-1.

And, of course, this is just a small sample of local charities. There are housing initiatives, health care, education and many more.

Sure, there are bad apples in the private sector just like the public sector. But they don’t come anywhere close to negating billions of dollars voluntarily given by people in the private sector – from CEOs down to line workers.

As Bill Gates’ quote at the top of this piece infers, building a business and practicing philanthropy takes a lot more work and imagination than taking cheap shots and tearing down the private sector.

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