Kansas City charitable foundation gets national attention

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation grabbed the top “rising star” ranking in an annual report published Thursday on America’s 400 largest public charities.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy analyzed a 25-year history of private donations to nonprofits and found that the Kansas City foundation rose in a ranking from No. 400 in 1991 to No. 56 on the 2015 list in terms of annual support.

That leap in rank was the biggest among the 400 organizations studied. It doesn’t reflect the amount of support but rather the leap from about $12.37 million in private support 25 years ago to $390.38 million in 2014, compared to the growth registered by others on the list.

Debbie Wilkerson, president and CEO of the community foundation, which houses a collection of donor-advised funds, said the foundation’s “growth simply reflects our donors’ growth and their ability to make a major impact to the causes they care about.”

Donor-advised funds are charitable giving accounts controlled by the individuals, families or organizations that create them. Those donors decide when and where to make charitable contributions from their accounts to causes they care about.

The Kansas City community foundation holds total assets of more than $2.15 billion. It’s the fourth-largest community foundation nationally.

The Chronicle report noted that donor-advised funds are growing rapidly, particularly as wealthy families put money in such funds, giving them a one-time tax writeoff. The structure of the funds allows them to take time to channel their philanthropy over the years.

Several other community foundations and groups that manage donor-advised funds “continue to crowd into the upper ranks of America’s biggest charities,” according to the publication.

The United Way remains the nation’s largest recipient of private support, raising $3.87 billion in fiscal year 2014. But the Chronicle report described its hold on No. 1 as tenuous. The nation’s second-largest fundraiser, Fidelity Charitable, a donor-advised fund manager, raised $3.85 billion. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, another donor-advised fund manager, ranked fifth.

The Chronicle report said last year saw strong support growth for community foundations, public broadcasting and universities. Meanwhile, the report said, support waned for social services, arts and culture groups, and education groups apart from universities.

Total contributions received by the 400 nonprofits in their latest fiscal years rose 5.1 percent to $98.6 billion, The Chronicle said.

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford