They’re not exactly a dime a dozen, but let’s face it, we’ve gotten used to seeing a wealth of million-dollar charitable gifts from Sarasota philanthropists—five to the Asolo Rep in the last five years alone, for example.
This year was different. Three nonprofits received three headline-making mega-gifts—$15 million to the Ringling College of Art and Design, $10 million to the Van Wezel Foundation and $5 million to the Ringling Museum. All three were the largest single gifts in the organizations’ long histories--in the case of the museum, its largest investment in contemporary and modern art.
In the case of Ringling College, the gift from Drs. Joel and Gail Morganroth, husband-and-wife physicians from Philadelphia (he also founded a global medical tech company), will endow a chair in the college’s new Virtual Reality Development major, as well as help fund capital projects, equipment, scholarships and the new Sarasota Museum of Art. The Ringling Museum gift, from retired Coach COO Keith Monda and his wife, Linda, is in the form of four major pieces of art and also funds a modern and contemporary art curator.
And the Van Wezel Foundation donation, from the estate of late board member Herta Klauser Cuneo, while earmarked in her will for general purposes, most likely will help fund a future larger performing arts hall as part of The Bay initiative, says foundation COO Jim Selinski. “She was a huge supporter of The Bay,” says Selinski, “and she told us, ‘Nobody wants to be the first, so I will.’”
The Chronicle of Philanthropy calls this “the golden age of giving” in the United States, with a rush of mega-donations from living Americans. That, coupled with the enormous transference of trillions of dollars from the Greatest Generation to their baby-boomer offspring, portends only more.
Locally, the philanthropic community is maturing, says Scott Hinckley, president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Southwest Florida Chapter. Nonprofit leaders are looking at big-picture initiatives and viewing potential donors as partners “rather than dollar signs.” In return, he says, “We’re seeing that more people with means are asking themselves how can they make a difference here—if they can do more than patching holes but really make change.”
Out of the 12 current AFP board members, Hinckley says, at least half are in the middle of a campaign or about to start one. “It’s a very positive sign,” he says, “investing in not-for-profits and what they can do for our community.”