FRANKFORT

As we celebrate Christmas this week and ready ourselves for the new year, now is the ideal time to recall the adage that it is better to give than to receive. Here in Kentucky, we have truly taken that to heart.

One of the best ways that can be seen is in the numerous nonprofits and foundations that serve Kentuckians. These organizations oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, and they benefit hundreds of thousands of people through such well-known organizations as United Way, Goodwill Industries and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. There are many others dedicated to helping those in need, furthering our education and improving our collective health and the environment.

About a decade ago, the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative did a groundbreaking study on how we could build on this work by diverting a small fraction of the wealth that is transferred from one generation to the next.

In 2017, an update showed that this transfer of wealth in Kentucky was expected to reach $80 billion in the next decade -- and could be as much as $761 billion over a 50-year period. If five percent of that could be diverted into an endowment, the report said, "we would be creating the equivalent of a (Bill and Melinda) Gates Foundation focused solely on our state."

The legislature has helped to spur that type of giving by setting aside $1 million in tax credits so donors to community foundations can recoup up to 20 percent of what they generously give.

According to the federal government's Corporation for National and Community Service, a little more than half of Americans donated at least $25 to charity last year, while nearly a third volunteered their time, the highest percentage ever recorded. Those 77 million people spent almost seven billion hours helping others.

Here in Kentucky, 978,000 citizens dedicated almost 97 million hours volunteering in 2018, and the economic value of that was estimated at $2.3 billion.

A closer look at those state numbers shows that nearly all residents regularly talk with family and friends; about half do favors for their neighbors; a fourth participate in local groups or organizations; and a sixth do something positive for their neighborhood.

A separate study from a year ago said Kentucky was second-best among the states when it came to collecting and distributing food to those in need.

Another way that Kentuckians have shown their giving spirit can be found in our charitable gaming, which voters made possible in 1992.

This category generated about $434 million last year, which is a little less than half as much as the lottery brings in.

Earlier this fall, then-Attorney General Andy Beshear warned Kentuckians to be vigilant in deciding which organizations they donate to. His office said Americans donate about 2 percent of their income to charity, and in 2017, that amounted to about $410 billion. Unless you know the charity well, I encourage you to do your research to ensure your donations are doing the most good for the most people.

As we approach the final days of the holiday season, I hope we all keep in mind the words of famous philosopher Albert Schweitzer, who once said, "One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."

With that spirit in mind, I hope all of you are having a merry Christmas this week, and that 2020 turns out to be your best year yet.

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