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Grantmaking Soars Despite Down Economy

Source: Gigi Wirtz, Baltimore Community Foundation

(Baltimore, MD, January 22, 2003)—In contrast to reports of declining grants from many private foundations, the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF) has announced that it distributed $20 million in grants during 2002, topping its 2001 total of $17 million.

Furthermore, states BCF President Thomas E. Wilcox, "Our discretionary grants budget for 2003 will remain steady; we do not anticipate any decrease in distributions in the coming year."

Wilcox attributed BCF’s favorable position to the inherent strength of the community foundation structure, which is designed to provide a steady stream of charitable funds to the region it serves. The Baltimore Community Foundation is a collection of more than 300 charitable funds, each with its own mission and purpose, and falling into several broad categories of funds which operate with greater and lesser degrees of donor involvement.

The largest single category is donor-advised funds, which account for 60% of BCF’s annual grant distributions. These funds allow donors to create a fund which operates similarly to a family foundation, with full administrative and staff support built in.

"Our donors have been extraordinarily generous during this most recent market decline. They have recognized that though the market is down the needs in the community are on the rise, and they have continued both to add to and recommend grants from their funds at record levels," Wilcox said.

BCF Director of Donor Services Laurie Crosley explains, "Donor-advised grants go to a wide range of organizations recommended by the funds’ advisors—usually the donors who set up the funds, or their successors. BCF offers donor advisors a good deal of support in learning about organizations and projects that we think might be of interest to them, so they can target grants for the greatest effect."

Another 23% of distributions comes from funds designated by the original donors for special purposes, such as scholarship funds and endowments held and administered by BCF on behalf of area nonprofit organizations.

Discretionary grantmaking, which in 2002 totaled some $3.5 million, or 17% of total grant distributions, is funded largely by unrestricted and field-of-interest funds, entrusted by donors to BCF as endowments to serve the region’s most pressing needs.

"These funds," explained Wilcox, "Are invested conservatively, and BCF also receives significant annual contributions to support some of our special discretionary grant programs, such as the Neighborhood Grants Program, A-Teams and the Mayor’s Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative."

BCF’s discretionary grants are focused on three priority areas: community development, children and families, and arts and culture.

One of the largest charitable foundations in Maryland, BCF manages more than 300 different charitable funds with total assets of $85 million.



• $450,000 was distributed to support the Mayor’s Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative, administered by BCF. Of this total, $395,000 went to the six participating neighborhoods to pay for community improvement projects, staffing and marketing of the neighborhoods. The remaining $55,000 went to Live Baltimore Marketing Center and the Neighborhood Design Center to subsidize their ongoing assistance to the HNI neighborhoods.

• BCF’s Neighborhood Grants Program distributed $429,867 to 53 community groups in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. These small grants fund projects such as community gardens, installing house lights and neighborhood clean-ups, but serve as well to bring neighbors closer together, build the community organization and strengthen the social fabric of the neighborhood.

• The Community Law Center was awarded $20,000 to recruit and train volunteer attorneys to help neighborhoods deal with vacant and nuisance properties.

• $5,000 was awarded to the Community Mediation Program to provide conflict resolution training and services for issues involving teens and neighborhoods.


• $298,678 was distributed to 17 organizations for A-Teams: BCF’s ongoing grant program supporting after-school activities for middle-school age children.

• Youth as Resources, Baltimore’s youth-run grantmaking program housed at BCF, distributed $45,366 in support of 20 youth-designed and youth-led community improvement projects.

• $25,000 was awarded to help pay for start-up of Connexions Community Leadership Academy, a Baltimore City "New School."

• Three-year support totaling $45,000 was awarded to Advocates for Children and Youth for its advocacy work on "Maryland Can" priorities.


• BCF signed on as the first sponsor of RADAR, Baltimore’s new arts review publication, with a $5,000 grant to the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance for publication of the first three issues, followed by a $10,000 challenge grant for continued publication.

• The Producers Club of Maryland was awarded $14,000, a two-year commitment to support the Maryland Film Festival. in 2002 and 2003.

• $15,000 was awarded to the Downtown Partnership for its marketing efforts on behalf of Vivat! festival celebrating Russian culture in Baltimore this February.

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This story was published on February 10, 2003.
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