The years 2013 and 2014 were good years for nonprofits, thanks to increases in foundation and private assets bolstered by a recovering stock market.
If you were to add up the dollar value of grants made by Arkansas's top family foundations in 2013 (the most recent year for which figures are available), you'd come up with around $270 million. That's only part of the picture: That figure accounts only for gifts by the richest charitable foundations in Arkansas. There are many with assets under $20 million (our arbitrary cutoff) that are giving to needy groups here, and many millions more are awarded by corporate foundations, private individuals and other nonprofit grantmakers.
The Walton Family Foundation, the richest in Arkansas ($2.4 billion in assets) and the 39th largest family foundation in the United States, has nearly doubled its giving since 2008; its 2013 tax form 990 shows the foundation awarded $311,475,768 in grants; of that, $32,489,424 went to its "home region."
The Windgate Foundation ($174 million in assets), headquartered in Siloam Springs, also nearly doubled its giving in 2013, with grants of $41 million, up from $26.4 million in 2012. William L. Hutcheson, whose mother, Dorothea, founded Windgate with Wal-Mart stock, and Mary E. Hutcheson of Fort Smith added $79.5 million to Windgate's assets in 2013. (Foundation director John Brown called Windgate "the Walton Family Foundation's little brother.") Windgate has a "modified spend down policy" (it gives more than the required 5 percent with the anticipation that it will not continue in perpetuity), Brown said, but will stay in business "as long as we keep getting additional gifts that are so generous," Brown said.
The amount of private giving, according to the 2013 Generosity Index of the Fraser Institute, ranks Arkansas as the 19th highest in the nation. Arkansas individuals do even better in average charitable giving as a percentage of income: 9th. (Utah, which has a large tithing Morman population, continues to rank first in both.)
Alumni and foundations in Northwest Arkansas continue to shower gifts on the University of Arkansas, which raised more than $100 million for the fourth year in a row, the university announced in August. The school raised $113.3 million in cash, gifts in kind, planned gifts and new pledges for the fiscal year 2014.
The largest single foundation donation in 2013, according to tax returns examined by the Times, was the Walton Charitable Support Foundation's $26.4 million gift to the Arkansas Community Foundation, which manages more than 1,500 funds.
Robert H. Biggadike's estate commitment of $7.8 million to the University of Arkansas's College of Engineering was the biggest individual gift made public in 2014. Biggadike was a native of Newport who got bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering from the UA and worked in the aerospace industry in California.
Approved grants for 2013 and 2014, on which foundations have begun payments, are also big news in giving: They include the Windgate Foundation's $15.5 million pledge for a new arts building at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and its $14 million pledge for the proposed Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust's approval of $9 million for the UA's Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.
One pot that Arkansas will not be able to look forward to in the future is the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which has committed all its funds and is no longer taking grant applications. The foundation, which has given around $450 million to Arkansas institutions over the lifetime of the foundation, according to President Steve Anderson, is spending down as those who were personal friends with the media mogul are becoming inactive on the board. "We want to stay as close to the founder as possible," Anderson said. "We wanted to accomplish everything we could while people on the board making decisions had some knowledge or could refer back to Reynolds."
In 2013, the Reynolds Foundation made a contribution of $3.5 million to the Museum of Discovery, and Camp Aldersgate recently announced a $1 million gift from the foundation for a 6,000-square-foot activity center. There may be future grants already approved for Arkansas, but Anderson said he would not be able to announce them now.
Nationally, according to Giving USA, individuals, corporations, foundations and bequests were estimated at $335.17 billion, close to the peak hit before the 2008 recession.
Family foundation grants can be found in a sidebar. What follows is a list of philanthropic gifts of $250,000 or more by individuals made public since last fall:
University of Arkansas alumnus Robert H. Biggadike, a Newport native who made his career in the aerospace industry in California, made an estate gift commitment valued at more than $7.8 million to establish the Robert H. Biggadike Endowment for Teaching in the University of Arkansas College of Engineering.
Wallace and Jama Fowler of Jonesboro donated $2.5 million to the UA's $9.1 million building project for its baseball and track teams and pledged $2.93 million for the second construction phase of the Fowler House Garden and Conservatory, which houses UA Chancellor David Gearhart and his wife, Jane.
The Johnny Allison family made a gift commitment of $5 million to Arkansas State University to expand its Centennial Bank Stadium, which two years ago received $5 million from Liberty Bank, now Centennial.
Alumnus Kevin Brown and his wife, Marie, of Houston endowed the UA College of Engineering department head chair with a gift of $3 million.
Robert and Sandra Connor of Little Rock and Dallas pledged $1.5 million toward the Robert C. and Sandra Connor Endowed Faculty Fellowship to support junior-level faculty in the UA Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
A bequest of $1.4 million will create the Dan and Johnnie Winn Memorial Scholarship in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's College of Social Sciences and Communication. Johnnie Winn was the first licensed woman amateur radio operator in Arkansas. Dan Winn helped create 30 radio stations in Arkansas and established the Arkansas Radio Network.
Racynski Phillips, dean of the Fay Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and his wife, Martha Phillips, have pledged a planned estate gift of $1 million to create the Raczynski Phillips Bruce Chair in Social Determinants of Health. The gift was made in honor of the college's inaugural dean, Thomas A. Bruce, and his late wife, Dolores.
Stuart Cobb of Little Rock has donated $1 million to help pay for construction and services at the new breast center of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS.
Alumnus Richard Greene of Lowell will create the Camden E. and Dortha Sue Greene CARE Endowed Scholarship with a $1 million gift to benefit the UA Office of Diversity and Community.
Doug McMillon and his wife, Shelley, donated $1 million to the UA Sam M. Walton College of Business to endow a proposed School of Global Retail Operations and Innovation. McMillon is CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The estate of Merrily Purnell Parker made a gift of $800,000 to create the Owen W. Parker Sr. and Merrily Parker Endowed Scholarship at UALR, with a preference for philosophy or music majors.
N.W. "Chip" Buerger of Dripping Springs, Texas, has made a planned gift of $500,000 to endow scholarships to the UA Fulbright College, the College of Engineering and the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
The A.L. Chilton Foundation in Dallas has created a faculty fellowship with a $500,000 gift to the UA College of Education and Health Professions. The foundation's distribution committee includes alumnae Patti Brown and Bonnie Harding.
Alumna K. Denise Henderson of Hot Springs is making a planned gift of $600,000 to be divided between the UA Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences; the Women's Giving Circle, and the Arkansas Alumni Association.
Betty Haga of Riverside, Calif., and her late mother, Merl McKinnon Haga, donated $500,000 to endow a scholarship for the nontraditional students pursuing a degree in the UA College of Education and Health Professions.
Alumni Tom Bercher and Francis Hayes Bercher of Racine, Wis., have created a testamentary trust of $450,000 to benefit the UA Fulbright College.
Alumna Ellen Gray pledged an estate gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed professorship in art history at UALR.
Carolyn Cole and her husband, Nick, have pledged $250,000 to create the Nick and Carolyn Cole Honors College Path Endowed Scholarship for UA honors college students with financial need. Carolyn Cole holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in English from the Fulbright College.