News and analysis
October 05, 2014

Amid a Giving Slump in Chicago, a Pocket of Generosity Sprouts

Nathan Mandel, for The Chronicle

Jamie Phillippe of the Chicago Community Trust says giving has been uneven. Chronicle data show that residents living near Millennium Park and nearby cultural institutions have been generous. But Ms. Phillippe says groups that deliver basic services to the poor haven't done as well.

This article was updated on January 13, 2015. See our editor’s note.

Pockets of extreme generosity can sprout in curious places. Exhibit A: the 60601 Zip code in the Loop in downtown Chicago.

Although overall giving in the Windy City declined 5.1 percent from 2006 to 2012 when measured against residents’ income, the folks in 60601 topped 15 percent.

It is possible that a single megagift or a few ballooned the percentage for the Zip code. But a more likely reason, according to Jamie Phillippe, vice president of development and donor services at the Chicago Community Trust, is that suburban baby boomers whose children have moved out of the house have moved back into the city, occupying its gleaming new luxury high-rises.

The increased number of affluent donors, whose generosity has been possible in part by their quicker recovery from the recession, has helped some nonprofits stabilize their finances, she says.

The benefits have been uneven, however, and the groups losing out are especially those that deliver basic services to the poor and the hungry. .

The spurt of giving "hasn’t been across the board," Phillippe says.

As a result, many nonprofits are in a "cage match" to secure private donations as government funding for basic needs withers, says Delia Coleman, director of public policy at Donors Forum, an Illinois nonprofit consulting group.

"Private philanthropy and individual giving isn’t enough to cover that gap," she says.


Editor’s Note: In this and other stories on How America Gives, we used ZIP-code data from the IRS to make comparisons between 2006 and 2012, the only years for which income and charitable donation data were available broken out by income and geography. However, to protect privacy, the IRS suppresses some ZIP-code data when there are fewer than 20 filers in a given income group. As a result, some figures are lower than what they’d otherwise be.

Since our original report, we’ve updated our interactive with county-level data for 2012, which do not have any data suppressed. Unfortunately, such data are not available for 2006.

Many of the figures used in this and other How America Gives stories are based on the original 2006 and 2012 ZIP-code data to make those year-over-year comparisons.

For the latest and most accurate 2012 data, see our interactive.