Seattle: Tough on Charities


As SW’s Aimee Curl reports, Seattle pols have a serious crush on Portland. We copied them on the SLUT, the streetcar and sidewalk cafés. Their basketball team is also much better than ours. But, according to the New Jersey-based Charity Navigator, Seattle’s edging out that city to the south in at least one category: We’re kinder to charities.

That assertion, however, is taken seriously out of context. The charity evaluator ranked 30 philanthropic markets. Portland ranked 26th. Seattle ranked 25th. So to say we’re nicer to charities is like saying the Kansas City Royals are better than the Mariners. They both suck, so who cares. (Kansas City, by the way, also ranked ahead of us on the Charity Navigator.)

The study, released June 1, evaluated factors such as market size, CEO compensation, fundraising efficiency, annual growth and wealth to come up with an overall ranking of the health of charities in a given market.

Seattle, the report says, isn’t exactly unkind to philanthropic efforts here, it just costs a lot to raise money. The 76 largest charities here report paying an average of 12 cents to raise a dollar. (Nationally, it costs a dime) That’s the third highest in the nation. They also devote 8.5 percent of their budgets to fundraising, fifth highest in the nation.

Where Seattle charities thrive is in the rate of growth. The growth of revenue is speeding along at the seventh fastest rate in the nation while the growth of programs is sixth fastest.

We also thrive on our diversity. Of Seattle’s largest non-profits, 17 percent help the arts, 11 percent are environmental, 12 percent are health related, 21 percent are human services and 18 percent are public benefit charities. But nevertheless, Seattle -- and Portland -- rank towards the bottom of the pack in the overall health of their charities. In such a progressive corner of the country, this may be a bit surprising.

“It’s hard to know why the fundraising climate is so tough out in that area but it is something we’ve seen over and over in the years we’ve completed this study,” says Sandra Miniutti, Vice President of Marketing at Charity Navigator. “I don’t think that it’s necessarily something that charities are doing wrong, I think that it’s maybe the diverse philanthropic marketplace is so competitive out there.”

So who was first? Miami, San Diego, Houston, Pittsburgh and Boston, in that order. Who was last? Detroit, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Charlotte and Ha! Portland.

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