If Americans were to give 10 percent to charity of what they spend on holiday gifts, it would add up to $70 billion. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Opinion: A glimpse at charitable giving, needs here

While civic leaders use an energetic public image to draw people and development here, Atlanta’s philanthropic community makes a substantial difference, largely in a low-key way.

When it comes to promoting our town, metro Atlanta’s sort of carved out an exception to the usual Southern norm of self-effacement. We’re polite about it, for sure, but this region and state, have not been anywhere near reticent in selling ourselves, and our estimable value to the rest of the world.

That’s an appropriate strategy for keeping us on the map in a competitive nation and world that cedes no good job or investment dollar without a fight.

And that necessary self-promotion makes a good comparison, perhaps, with which to consider philanthropic efforts in greater Atlanta, both large and small. When it comes to charitable giving to help others, metro Atlantans seem to stand more on both Southern humility and the religious traditions that many of us grew up with.

Which is to say that this region, and our institutions large and small, are quite generous in their philanthropy. However, many of us, institutions and individuals alike, shy away from seeking a lot of publicity about giving. That seems well in line with scriptural admonitions to give generously, but do it quietly and behind the scenes where at all possible.

This behavior seems to hold true from some of our largest philanthropic foundations, or business donors, on down to the level of individual giving. In our view, such efforts are welcomed, and the modesty surrounding this work is fully understood.

Giving quietly, though, can sort of camouflage the actual scale of philanthropy here. Grants to charitable causes here can routinely run total seven or eight figures each, and there are a lot of those initiatives made around town here.

That’s a useful context in which to view one example of philanthropy that did rise above the radar this month. A celebration of Bernie Marcus’ 90th birthday was marked by a fund-raising drive to benefit his favorite charities. The push generated more than $117 million for these institutions. That number, and the rather public way in which it was reached, draws attention to Atlanta’s world-class stature in philanthropy. It’s a tip of the local giving iceberg, really. And this combined generosity is fully befitting our high-ranking in other areas of human endeavor, we believe.

On this page today, former Atlanta Mayor and current Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell offers his viewpoint on this city’s giving legacy most recently showcased by the Marcus birthday gala. And the president of the Community Foundation For Greater Atlanta, which helps facilitate philanthropic giving, also offers her viewpoint today on some key needs here.

Massell correctly notes that a generous sense of giving to good causes is in our local DNA. A lot of philanthropic entities, companies, and donors of means make those gifts happen all the time. In the process, they identify opportunities and guide resources toward them. That’s not as easy as it sounds at times, but they make good things happen.

These contributions set a great example that, scaled down as needed, can and should be emulated by all of us in our own personal support of charities whose activities help make metro Atlanta better for everyone who calls this place home.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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