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Spokane foundations learning how to multiple money

The outpouring of charity that accompanies the holiday season — from the Christmas Fund to Tree of Sharing to Toys for Tots to the Salvation Army — is a constant reminder of the generosity of Spokane residents.

Many offering their dollars are giving back for some act of kindness or timely contribution that helped them through a hard time, and gave them the strength and inspiration to put their lives and their families back together.

Sometimes you can measure success one family at a time, sometimes the results are broader, and reflect the contributions of Spokane’s many charitable foundations.

Very many. Go to the Washington Secretary of State’s website and check out a list that goes on, and on, and on. There are foundations that support health research, wildlife protection, housing for the poor, and youth activities.

Others support Fairchild Air Force Base, school bands, churches of all denominations and, yes, refugees.

The list is astounding. And when the seasonal decorations are packed away for another year, they will still be out there; raising and investing money, and making grants that are moving Spokane forward.

Many are finding that, rather than shot-gunning their efforts, they get more bang for their bucks by coordinating their contributions, and bringing more of their different skills to bear on a single problem.

A great example is the research focused on a high dropout rate in Spokane Public Schools.

United Way, the Inland Northwest Community Foundation and Empire Health Foundation funded a study of the problem that identified solutions. Their findings brought in more money, including funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that have had a tremendous impact.

A 2007-2008 graduation rate of 62 percent has soared to better than 80 percent thanks to programs that identify students at risk as early as grade school, and directs them to school and community resources that keep them on track.

Other initiatives are improving student nutrition, housing access and health care availability.

Empire Health calls the new approach to grant-making and coordination with others “Philanthropy 3.0.” In another example, the foundation is also working with Washington State University and Providence Health Care to increase the number of doctor residencies in the region. A shortage threatened to limit the capacity of WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, and the retention rate of doctors who do train in the area.

As these efforts succeed, foundations from outside Eastern Washington such as the Gates Foundation see the community’s capacity to successfully manage grant money, and the cycle begins to enrich itself.

That support is vital to a community that has always had the will, but not necessarily the means, to take care of all its neighbors.

We know Spokane does its utmost. Now, Eastern Washington individuals and foundations are learning how to multiply those dollars. The 12 days of Christmas become the 12 months.

To respond to this editorial on-line, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.



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