Racial justice, mental health low priority for Brevard, Central FL donors

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Brevard was among a group of Florida counties that were the lowest in the state for charitable donations to racial justice causes in 2021, according to research released last month by the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

The new study, done in partnership with Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Jesse Ball duPont Fund, also showed that donors in east-central Florida counties gave well below the state average to health-related causes, including groups that support mental health.

The survey of more than 1,400 households across the state was conducted in January. Results were weighted by age, gender, race, education, geographic location, and annual household income.

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About 17% of households in the “Central East” region – which included Brevard, Indian River, Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Volusia counties – reported donating to groups and individuals supporting racial justice, compared to 26% of Florida households elsewhere in the state, the research found.

The region was last in this category in 2021 among the eight regions defined by the study, according to Leah McDermott, program manager for the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

“I think one of the areas that this particular region can work on is the idea of ​​supporting racial justice,” McDermott said Tuesday during a presentation of the group’s research findings at Rockledge.

Health-related causes — including contributions to charities that provide mental health resources — also suffered relative to the state.

According to the study, just 2.5% of charitable donations in east central Florida counties went to health causes last year, compared to a state average of 8.6%.

The scarcity of donations combined with a lack of volunteers — East-Central Florida ranked seventh out of eight regions in volunteering for charitable causes, McDermott said — impacted the ability to provide services to residents. of Brevard with mental health needs, according to Natalie Hussein, president of the nonprofit National Alliance on Mental Illness in Brevard County.

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“We definitely need the financial contributions,” Hussein said. Even combined with other funding sources, current donations barely cover running costs, she added.

“Unless you’re living under the same roof as someone who’s really struggling, I don’t know if that’s high on the priority list,” she said.

Not all of the search results were discouraging, said Sabeen Perwaiz, CEO of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

Sabeen Perwaiz, president and CEO of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

The study — the first of its kind at the state level in the United States, Perwaiz said — showed residents of east-central Florida were above the state average when it comes to the arts, education and international causes.

They also came out significantly above average when it comes to reported giving to other forms of charities not covered by the survey, which could include direct contributions to specific foundations, charity funds, disaster response and others, McDermott said.

About 13% of East Central Florida households reported contributions in the “other” category, compared to about 7.8% statewide.

Perwaiz said the results of the survey, which aimed to inform charities about recent giving trends, are relevant for people looking for new options when considering donating to charity. .

It also debunks a long-held myth that Florida residents, many of whom are from out of state, are uptight when it comes to giving their time and money, he said. she declared.

“Our state, despite the number of people moving here and we assume they’re not connecting, they’re connecting with a lot,” Perwaiz said. “So Florida is actually very generous.”

Eric Rogers is a watchdog reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Rogers at 321-242-3717 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EricRogersFT.

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