Smith Center tops in contributions

Why would the city of Las Vegas, or any government, make the top 10 list of the largest recipients of charitable donations in Nevada over a decade?

Yet, there it was in black and white. Las Vegas was the sixth largest receiver of private charitable donations in Nevada from 2000 to 2010.

Didn’t make sense, so I began poking around.

Apparently it was an anomaly. A $30 million donation from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation was a pass through, which was donated to the city but ended up in the coffers of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

However, the city does receive charitable donations, more than I would have guessed.

City spokesman David Riggleman explained the city averages about $1 million a year in private donations and they’re usually directed toward a specific need, even the small donations. He said the more accurate number of donations from 2000 to 2010 would be about $7.5 million.

Eliminating the $30 million pass through, the largest donation to the city was from the Darling Memorial Foundation. A $750,000 donation helped build the Amanda and Stacy Darling Tennis Center at 7901 W. Washington Ave., in honor of the two sisters killed in a car accident in 1993. The sisters were avid tennis players, so it made perfect sense for their family to help the city build a center that will keep their names alive.

John Black and Lillian Black put the city in their wills and between them donated nearly $355,000. They asked that their money go to projects to help seniors. That, too, is a worthy enhancement.

The only other donation to the city in excess of $100,000 was $176,000 donated from the Friends of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police over the decade.

The calculations of Nevada-style philanthropy from Applied Analysis concluded the state’s millionaires and billionaires, or the top 2 percenters, account for more than 27 percent of the state’s charitable contributions.

The No. 1 recipient of all private donations was The Smith Center for the Performing Arts at nearly $200 million.

Coming in second was the now defunct Nevada Cancer Institute, which received more than $187 million but went belly up when it ran up a $100 million debt.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was in third place with $166 million in contributions while the University of Nevada, Reno was fourth with nearly $71 million, less than half that of UNLV.

Three Square Food Bank was fifth with $36 million.

The city of Las Vegas was sixth, but wouldn’t make the top 10 list if the Reynolds Foundation pass through was deducted.

Seventh place honors went to Andre Agassi Foundation and Preparatory Academy with $27 million.

The Adelson Educational Campus was eighth with $25 million, but the $50 million donation just announced from the Adelsons to the school will surely bump that school up the list on the next tally of this kind, maybe even above UNR. It won’t satisfy those who resent the millions he gave to GOP candidates, but it is substantial.

The College of Southern Nevada took in nearly $25 million and the Desert Research Institute held the No. 10 spot with $20 million.

So as a state how do we rate as philanthropists?

Nevada ranks 41 out of 50 states by the Chronicle of Philanthrophy. It calculated that average Nevada households making $50,000 donate on average 3.9 percent of their discretionary average annual income to charity.

Utah is No. 1 thanks to tithing within the Mormon Church and New Hampshire is No. 50.

Nevada often grabs and holds on to those bottom positions in state rankings, which gets so depressing, it’s enough to make you want to donate to mental health services.

Wait, aren’t taxes supposed to provide those services?

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at

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