Arizona Giving and Leading: Arizona Giving

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One recent survey shows that Arizona ranks among the bottom of states when it comes to giving. Jacky Alling, Chief Philanthropic Services Officer of the Arizona Community Foundation, and Steve Zabilski, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, will discuss Arizona’s giving habits compared to the rest of the nation and how local charities are impacted.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona giving and leading, looks at charitable giving in Arizona and why the state ranks among the lowest in the country when it comes to donating time and money. Joining us now is Jacky Alling, chief philanthropic services officer for the Arizona community foundation, and Steve Zabilski, executive director of the society of St. Vincent DePaul. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us. Before we get into why we ranked so low, this is Arizona gives day.

Jacky Alling: It is about putting philanthropy at the forefront, and getting the public to think about the nonprofit sector and important role that they play, but more importantly, accessible to everyone. Everyone can feel like a philanthropist. You can go online and make a minimum donation for your favorite charity, and the nonprofits are excited about it. They have been able to bring in new donors in the past and not just the regular annual givers that give donations and what not and they have an opportunity to win prizes. As much about the exposure and access as it is the dollars.

Ted Simons: Is that the problem in Arizona, exposure, access, the knowledge that the nonprofits are out there?

Steve Zabilski: I don't know. We run a program in the summer, summer action heroes program. And the whole point of it being we can all be a hero. You don't have to be a multimillionaire or make a seven figure gift. St. Vincent DePaul here in Phoenix, is the largest St. Vincent DePaul in the United States, and we're that way because we have literally tens of thousands of people who give us $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000, and tens of thousands of people who volunteer all year long.

Ted Simons: Yet we're seeing numbers and hearing studies saying that Arizona is not doing too well in general in terms of donating time and money.

Jacky Alling: Exactly. Not going to gloss it over. We want the numbers to be better. We do have hope based on what Steve is saying and what we are seeing in the Arizona community foundation. We are in the business of working with donors and organizations to set up charitable funds. In the last four years, we have had record-breaking new fund growth, and that is almost a third of our total funds from the last four years.

Ted Simons: Just the last four years.

Jacky Alling: Just the last four years. And it also mirrors on the USA gives report that was put out last summer, overall, in the United States, same kinds of activity. Last four years have each been more significant. So, something is skewed in some of that data and we need to find out what that is.

Ted Simons: It sounds like -- the same report says Arizona is one of nine states, only nine states that show an increase in those four years. Obviously there are good things, but still room for improvement. Is it a question of demographics? Are younger folks, older folks, what are you seeing out there?

Steve Zabilski: Typically the donor to St. Vincent DePaul someone who is a little older, maybe retired. Last three, four years, what Jacky was pointing out, we have had many, many younger donors. Thousands of ASU students who are donors and volunteers. It is one of the reasons we are the largest in the country. Arizona Diamondbacks, the players, organization comes down and very supportive. The numbers frankly surprise me.

Ted Simons: Concept of Arizona being a transient state as well. People coming and going and not necessarily sitting roots in between. Is that a factor?

Steve Zabilski: Once in a while, somebody in an estate or will, and they might leave money to a college or hospital out of town, but I think people feel that it they're part of the Arizona economy and want to support it.

Ted Simons: The same studies show that compared to other states, Arizona has relatively few public charities.

Jacky Alling: We are a young philanthropic state. I think that's actually an advantage in many ways. Steve and I were talking about we don't have the long-time institutions and foundations that you might find in the east. And we do have many donors who have multiple homes and ties and alma maters outside of the state. ACF, about 28% of our grants annually go out of the state in terms of donor directed. I have an observation. In my generation, being an Arizona native is unusual.

Ted Simons: Yes.

Jacky Alling: If you ask the people in the room.

Ted Simons: Right.

Jacky Alling: My kids are millennials. It's not unusual. Our challenge is how do we keep the young talent, develop those jobs, help them build wealth, and make them want to stay here and raise a family and work and be in a great community?

Ted Simons: How do you get them to say St. Vincent DePaul, okay.

Steve Zabilski: I think the number one thing, we give them to the opportunity to come down and experience firsthand what it is like to volunteer in our kitchen, our dining room, to meet someone in need, someone who might be homeless, work in the homeless shelter, work in the clinic. You give them that chance to experience it and it is much different than reading about it in the paper.

Ted Simons: These studies show when it comes to donating money, Arizona is not quite as far down the list, it just comes to donating time. That is what it seems like we need help with. Do you see that as well?

Steve Zabilski: I don't actually. We run a turkey drive every November. Largest turkey drive in the country. In the country. In fact, my colleagues don't believe we collect 25,000 turkeys in a day and we do that every year. So many good things taking place in Arizona that frankly I think some of the data is surprising.

Ted Simons: How do we get more public charities, nonprofits, to have this kind of response over here that we're getting.

Jacky Alling: I think engagement is huge and I think access is huge. Going to online platforms, using the social media to really take advantage of the network effect and just really making everybody understand that they can be a philanthropist.

Steve Zabilski: Arizona gives day.

Ted Simons: Arizona gives day.

Steve Zabilski: Perfect example.

Ted Simons: As far as the future, holiday season is always big as far as philanthropy. How do you stretch the holiday season out?

Steve Zabilski: That is a good question. We are talking about it today with you. Summer action heroes program, 100 days of summer program, all types of things. Peanut butter and jelly drive. People said you can't raise any money and we proved that not to be the case in the summer.

Ted Simons: Changing nature, last question, changing nature of society. How do you -- it seems like it is a moving target out there.

Jacky Alling: It is a moving target. I think the need for speed is really huge and being responsive to when a community need comes up, while still thinking about long-term, that is a challenge that we all have to balance, but I do think there is a lot of hope. We have a lot of innovation in our state. We have a lot of groups that are supporting that innovation. So, I think we stay the course.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Congratulations to both of you. And good luck. Good to have you here.

Jacky Alling: Thank you.

Steve Zabilski: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear from Senate president Andy Biggs on the recently completed legislative session. And we'll discuss the fallout over a magazine article on alleged college campus sexual assault. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Jacky Alling:Chief Philanthropic Services Officer, Arizona Community Foundation; Steve Zabilski:Executive Director, Society of St. Vincent de Paul;

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