Entertainment & Arts

SFMOMA vs. LACMA? Bruins vs. Trojans? Philanthropy 400 list reveals biggest fundraisers

Philanthropy 400 and the nation’s top arts fundraisers

An artist’s rendering of the new wing at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, whose fundraising campaign vaulted the institution onto the Chronicle of Philantrhopy’s annual list of the charities that have raised the most money.

(SF MOMA/Snohetta )

An annual tally of American charities raking in the most donations showed an uptick for the arts, as 15 organizations made the recently published “Philanthropy 400” list compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, up from 13 last year.

Using organizations’ most recent public filings and other sources, mainly from 2014 but in some cases from 2013, the magazine calculated that the top 400 fundraising organizations took in $97.6 billion combined, an inflation-adjusted 5% increase over the previous year.

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In the arts, the fundraising juggernauts were a dozen museums and three performing arts organizations that took in a combined $1.3 billion. That list was topped by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art at $283.1 million and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art at $238.5 million — good for 83rd and 104th place.


No Southern California arts institutions made the list, which can be greatly affected by whether an organization happens to be running a major campaign in a given year for new construction or to boost its endowment.

The other arts groups raising $100 million or more were the Washington, D.C.-based  Smithsonian Institution ($193.4 million) and three New York organizations: the Whitney Museum of American Art ($140.1 million), the Metropolitan Opera ($128.8 million), and Museum of Modern Art ($121.4 million). The San Diego Zoo also made the list, raising $69.7 million to come in at No. 372.

The Philanthropy 400 differs in some respects from broader surveys of charitable giving. It’s dominated by giving to colleges and universities ($23.1 billion, split about evenly between private and public institutions). In broader studies, religion is the perennial top sector for charitable giving, but the money flows to untold numbers of small organizations, not just big ones such as Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), which reaped $495.9 million to rank 38th on this year’s list.

The most recent Giving USA study, a broader-based report issued in June by Indiana University’s Lily Family School of Philanthropy, showed arts and culture commanded 4.8% of a $358.4-billion charitable pie. In the Philanthropy 400 survey, only about 1% of the donations went to the arts.


The Chronicle of Philanthropy posted a searchable data base of its Philanthropy 400 lists going back to 1991 for subscribers. It shows that since 2000, five Southern California arts institutions have had at least one top 400 finish. They are the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino (2014, 2012 and 2006, totaling $292.3 million); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2009, 2008 and 2006, totaling $260.7 million); the Los Angeles Philharmonic (2003 and 2004, totaling $79.1 million); the Skirball Cultural Center ($127.1 million in 2004); and Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa ($80.9 million in 2002).

The nation’s biggest charity, a perennial No. 1, was United Way Worldwide, at $3.8 billion. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation was tops in California and fifth nationally, raising $2 billion.

Among Los Angeles charities, the Trojans beat the Bruins, with USC raising $731.9 million to place 22nd nationally, and UCLA coming in 51st with $430.2 million. Stanford topped them both, raising $928.4 million to rank 14th nationally.

Other fundraising leaders from Southern California were the Entertainment Industry Foundation ($181.7 million), UC San Diego ($150.4 million), California Institute of Technology ($113.4 million), UC Irvine ($97.2 million), San Diego State University ($79.8 million) and the Milken Institute ($77 million).

Follow @boehmm of the LA Times for arts news and features

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