By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, November 2, 2012
Georgia is still one of the most important nonprofit centers in the country, according to the 2012 Philanthropy 400 list, which shows that five of the nation’s top 20 charities are based in the state.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy has been putting together this list for 21 years — measuring the amount that each charity receives in private donations. A total of 16 of the nation’s top 400 charities are based in Georgia.
The top-ranked Georgia nonprofit for the second year in a row was the Task Force for Global Health, the Decatur-based organization that distributes donated medicines and vaccines to people around the world.
The Task Force, which had not even made the list in 2010, saw its national rank go from No. 4 to No. 5 although the value of its contributions showed a slight increase.
Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, said there are slight fluctuations year to year.
But the overall message is the same: The nonprofit sector is an important contributor to the nation’s economy, and the Philanthropy 400 list parallels the much more well-known Fortune 500 list of publicly held companies.
“The situation is definitely better than it was, but that’s not saying much,” said Palmer, who added that the mood among many of the nonprofits is still pessimistic about the future.
The two cities in the country with the most nonprofits are New York and Washington, D.C. But after those two metro areas, Atlanta continues to be a major center for nonprofit organizations.
“Atlanta made a pretty deliberate effort to attract nonprofits several years ago,” Palmer said of the American Cancer Society (ranked No. 9 on the list), CARE USA (ranked 43rd) and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (ranked 18th).
Then speaking about the homegrown — Task Force for Global Health, Palmer said its ranking on the list “was incredible.”
Being listed on Philanthropy 400 has brought more attention to the Task Force and helped the nation understand the significance of its contributions, according to Mark Rosenberg, its president and CEO.
“It’s very hard to describe diseases that people have never heard of that affect people they have never thought about,” Rosenberg said.
“But if you can talk about the magnitude that in essence states that it’s the fifth-largest charity in the United States, it puts a measure that people can understand. By any standard, this is really an important movement.”
In the past year, the Task Force received $1.148 billion in donations — primarily in-kind contributions from pharmaceutical companies providing drugs, medicines and vaccines that are then distributed to people in need.
“It shows the extraordinary generosity of these large companies,” Rosenberg said. “We tend to underestimate their altruism.”
Rosenberg also said that a common theme among several of the nonprofits in Georgia is “that many of these organizations are trying to address the ills of poverty, especially extreme poverty.”
Karen Beavor, president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, put it another way.
“We are a public health mecca,” Beavor said. “It’s like we are ambassadors to the world.”
In speaking about Georgia’s nonprofits in general, Beavor said that “it’s still tough for a lot of organizations.”
But she added that most nonprofits have “made adjustments” to adapt to the current economic environment.
“Reality has definitely set in,” she said. “The improving economy, even though it’s still slight, is still a big boost to morale. And people’s endowment portfolios are doing better.”
Beavor also said that the situation has been particularly challenging for nonprofits in small communities where there may not be the resources available to meet the needs of their population.
Although it’s not significant, several Georgia nonprofits did slip in the ranks. The Carter Center went from being 119th in 2011 to 127th in 2012; MAP International went from 90th to 158th; In Touch Ministries went from 275 to 296; The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta went from 138th to 308th; and Mission to the World went from 316th to 366th.
On the other hand, some nonprofit organizations saw their rankings improve. Emory University went from 187th to 146th; and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation went from 325th to 308th.
The 16 Georgia nonprofits on the list actually is one less than the 2011 report. The Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center, which ranked as 340th in 2011, did not make the list this year.
But most of the top Georgia nonprofits were relatively stable.
“It’s not a big surprise,” Beavor said. “You rarely have a major shift in that top 10 percent. In most cases, they have strong boards and good diversified revenues.”