Minnesota boosts charitable giving as economy recovers

A report released Thursday found that total charitable giving in Minnesota has continued to climb back to pre-recession levels.

The Minnesota Council on Foundations said total giving in the state rose to $5.7 billion in 2012, a 2 percent increase from the previous year. However that's still substantially lower than 2007 giving levels, which reached $6.1 billion when adjusted for inflation.

Minnesota Council on Foundations executive director Trista Harris said charitable giving by foundations and corporations has returned to pre-recession levels. Although individual charitable giving still lags slightly behind pre-recession levels, it too is closing up the gap.

"Giving is a discretionary activity, so deciding to feel comfortable enough with your personal financial situation to be able to make a gift is a big choice," Harris said. "But I think people are starting to feel much more comfortable, employment is up, so I think we'll continue to see giving continue to rise as well."

But Harris said the positive side of the recession has been that foundations learned to be more effective with less money.

"There's been a lot more conversations about program-related investments, foundations have been much more involved in public policy," Harris said. "They're broadening their impact outside just the grant making that they do, which is of course critical."

Education continued to be the main focus of grant givers, with 29 percent of grants funding education. About 23 percent of grants focused on human services and 16 percent on public affairs.

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