Arkansas Report identifies charitable-giving opportunities

FORT SMITH — The Arkansas Community Foundation on Wednesday presented the second edition of Aspire Arkansas, a publication designed to help identify opportunities for effective charitable giving in the state.

The report provides county-specific data of focusing on education, economic opportunity and health-care issues facing Arkansans and those across the United States. Statewide organizations and government entities use the statistics to better understand and improve the quality of life in the community, which officials say is a tool to help Arkansans protect, grow and direct their charitable dollars.

“We foster smart giving to improve communities,” said Heather Larkin, president and CEO of Arkansas Community Foundation. “That’s what Aspire is all about an effort to provide better information that helps us make better decisions about how we give and help our communities grow.”

Larkin said the Community Foundation partnered with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Census Bureau, the Arkansas Departments of Health and Education and other government offices to compile the data, which was grouped into four categories: Education, health, family and community.

David Johnson, vice president of community investment for ACF, presented the report and said that the goal was to address three action steps to break the cycle of poverty by improving high school graduation rates, promoting healthy, stable families and elevating earning capacities for Arkansans.

Statistics from the report list Arkansas as 44th in the country in high school completion, at 82.7 percent, but notes that education reform has improved the stateís trend over the last 10 years.

Another area Johnson identified in the report was improving the state’s median family income, which he said is a direct correlation with education.

The report suggested steps to increase family earning capacity by attending literacy training, health care and financial literacy work to help workers understand and manage their financial resources.

Johnson said Arkansas ranks seventh in the country in charitable giving and he sees that trend continuing upward.

“There is a will to do good things here,” he said. “All of us can benefit by having information to improve our community and we hope this helps those interested to be more strategic with their giving. We want to help build a better life for people and break the cycle of poverty.”

Johnson said that while no specific group was named, numerous nonprofit organizations and charitable groups available will help improve the areas in the report.

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