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LACMA and KCET among nation's top fund-raisers -- back in the good old days of 2007-08

October 26, 2009 |  6:39 am

Resnicks The Chronicle of Philanthropy has identified the 400 U.S. charities that raised the most money during the fiscal year reflected by their 2008 tax statements.

Twenty-seven arts and cultural institutions made the top 400 for 2008 -- 14 museums, three performing-arts centers, one opera company (the San Francisco Opera, which was boosted by its largest-ever donation, $40 million), seven public broadcasters, the New York City Public Library and the New York Botanical Garden.

Buoyed by a then-high-flying fund-raising campaign for its expansion and renovation, including a $45-million gift from Stewart and Lynda Resnick (pictured), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art came in 167th overall and fourth among museums, collecting $126.1 million in donations. The local public television station, KCET, squeezed onto the list at No. 399, raising $47.9 million.

Overall, the 400 champs of fund-raising managed to eke out a 1% gain over the previous year during 2008. Since the recession officially began in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, most charities would have spent about half their 2007-08 fiscal years with the wind at their backs and half with it blowing in their faces. But the typhoon didn't hit until September 2008, when the books already had closed for most of the organizations in the Chronicle's report.

Next year's report will reflect that damage. To get a peek ahead, the Chronicle surveyed 100 of the charities that made its 2008 list and found they were predicting a 9% drop in donations.


Among those responding was LACMA, which the Chronicle reports as expecting to raise $34 million in  2009 -- a 73% drop -- suggesting that the capital campaign has had to wait while donors tend to such immediate needs as helping the museum pay its staff. LACMA issued tax-free bonds before the recession hit, to cover the first two phases of its construction project.

That means the Resnick Exhibition Pavilion now being built shouldn't be held up by the poor economy -- although, if things don't turn around, the museum could find itself too house-poor to pay for the number and scale of exhibitions it had envisioned when it began planning the Renzo Piano-designed project in 2007.

The New York Public Library was the only cultural institution besides LACMA to share its expectations for 2009 -- a 21% decline to $130 million.

-- Mike Boehm


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Photos: At top, Stewart and Lynda Resnick. Their gift of $45 million helped boost LACMA into the top 200 fund-raising organizations during 2008. Credit: Stephen Osman. At bottom, LACMA director Michael Govan. Credits: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times