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Pitt’s civic-mindedness totals $744K |

Pitt’s civic-mindedness totals $744K

| Saturday, May 21, 2011 12:00 p.m

At the University of Pittsburgh, charity begins at home.

Recently released federal documents show the sprawling state-related university gave $744,000 last year to 37 nonprofit organizations, all of them locally based.

Groups on the receiving end of Pitt’s largesse ranged from the Negro Education Emergency Drive, a Downtown-based mentoring and scholarship organization that received $167,000 — the largest award on the list — to the Pittsburgh Opera, which received $5,000.

The university spent $75,000 on a membership in the Allegheny Conference on Economic Development, a regional development group, and $100,000 for a sponsorship of the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Institute, a nonprofit organization formed to promote commercialization of advances in tissue engineering.

Community arts groups and charities given sponsorships or contributions included the Civic Light Opera ($37,500), the Pittsburgh Symphony ($15,000), the American Middle East Institute ($10,000), the American Ireland Fund ($10,000), Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh ($10,000), the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee ($5,000) and PG Charities ($10,000).

State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said lawmakers weighing higher education’s pleas to restore millions of dollars in funding that was cut in Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget want to be clear about where state money intended for Pennsylvania students is going.

“A lot of us want to know that hard-earned tax dollars are going toward the education of Pennsylvania students. If we know the dollars we send them are definitely going to tuition, that addresses our concerns,” Turzai said.

Pitt spokesman John Fedele said the university, which listed revenues of $2.04 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, considers itself an educational institution and a partner in regional development.

“This community-mindedness includes making small to medium-sized contributions in the form of sponsorships in support of many programs and fundraising efforts of regional nonprofit organizations,” Fedele said.

He said much of the money goes to buy tables at events that honor university faculty, staff or students. Many of the decisions on such sponsorships or contributions are made at the school or department level.

Scott Leff, associate director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, said there are many reasons why a nonprofit such as Pitt would be so civic-minded.

“If you’re contributing to another group whose interests are similar to yours, it might be a way to cultivate their donor base,” Leff said. “And it’s a way for the nonprofit to give back to the community as well.”

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