Researched & written by: Kristen Fuhs Wells & Adam Gonzales

Nationally, more than 2/3 of philanthropic dollars come from individuals, 15 percent from foundations and 5 percent from corporations. We support health and education, religious and human services organizations, arts and culture, and other causes, with our hard-earned dollars and time. Like all major cities, Seattle and Indianapolis both depend on individuals, corporations and foundations to support philanthropic initiatives that tackle their regional challenges.

It’s no surprise that the biggest corporations in our cities have made a significant mark on our philanthropy. In a recent Business Insider article, Eli Lilly & Company ranked 8th and Microsoft Corporation 6th for the top 25 generous companies in the U.S.

In Seattle, Amazon used to be seen as “aloof” when it came to philanthropic efforts, but Jeff Bezos has recently shown more interest in using philanthropy as a tool to improve the world. The company has done significant work with a women’s shelter called Mary’s Place. Boeing has a long tradition of philanthropy in the Puget Sound region. Its total giving reaches almost $50 million a year, including its Employees Community Fund (ECF) of Puget Sound, which has given out well over half a billion dollars in its 58-year history.

Both cities seem to approach their philanthropy from a collaborative spirit—working together across public and private sectors and among foundations for a greater good. In Indianapolis, much of that is spear-headed by the 100-year-old Central Indiana Community Foundation (originally called the Indianapolis Foundation, one of the first community foundations in the country). In Seattle, the Seattle Foundation, founded in 1946, gives nearly $100 million a year to various projects across the city.

As a result of the influential top givers, compared to national giving, grantmakers in Indiana gave more to education and religion and less to health; while in Washington, grantmakers gave more than double the national average to health.


Here are some additional datapoints of interest:


Individual giving accounts for nearly $3 billion in Seattle and just slightly more than $1.1 billion in Indianapolis.

Indy residents give a greater share of our incomes to charity for all income levels under $200,000, compared to Seattle. (We out-give them 3.36% to 3.09% of our adjusted gross revenue.) But Seattle’s wealthy residents give more than ours do. Indianapolis has a high density of wealthy residents (49.5%) but those wealthy residents have relatively low giving (1.2% of their adjusted gross revenue).

Corporations and Foundations:

The top grantmakers in Washington are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with $3.86 billion in giving last year (locally, nationally and internationally) and Microsoft Corporation with just more than $1 billion. Other notables include the Paul G. Allan Family Foundation (9th) and Starbucks (12th).

In Indiana, the NCAA is the #1 grantmaker with $546 million, followed by Lilly Endowment ($440 million) and Lilly Cares Foundation ($408 million).

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