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Our "Adventures in Philanthropy" blog posts are written by our staff and diverse membership and offer a glimpse into the world of philanthropy, presenting current issues and information relevant to funders, policymakers, members of the media, and those interested in current issues and giving trends.


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Philanthropy Leadership in an Unexpected Place

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Monday, September 21, 2015
September 21, 2015
By Rebecca Ruggles, ABAG Green Funders Affinity Group Coordinator

This summer I watched two members of our ABAG community in action – climate action, to be specific. Is this what you usually think of when you imagine foundation executives at work?

Lynn Heller, Senior Vice President at the Abell Foundation and Stuart Clarke, Executive Director of the Town Creek Foundation are serving on the Maryland Climate Change Commission. Established in 2007, this Commission was strengthened by legislation passed during the 2015 session.

With added slots, the Commission now has 25 members who represent business, non-profits, government, and philanthropy. The Commission has four working groups: Mitigation, Adaptation, Education, Communications and Outreach (ECO) , and the Science and Technical Work Group.

Many Maryland leaders are engaged in these work groups. For instance, the Science and Technical Work Group is chaired by Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (UMCES). This group provided an update on the latest climate science this summer, indicating that Maryland’s climate actions are fully justified by impending threats of sea level rise, global warming, and weather disruption.

The ECO Work Group, chaired by Lori Arguelles of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, hosted five public forums around the state in 5 weeks this summer, and gathered public comments from 200-300 Maryland residents.

My perspective on all this comes primarily from being on the Mitigation Work Group (MWG). It is co-chaired by Stuart Clarke and attorney Michael Powell, who represents energy industry clients. Stuart and Michael held 9 meetings of MWG this summer. We looked at everything from reforestation to electric vehicles to highway capital plans to jobs growth.

The Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2012 is model legislation among states. It demanded that Maryland achieve a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, while spurring job creation and growing our economy.

According to the Maryland Department of the Environment: "Maryland has documented a sea level rise of more than one foot in the last century, increasing water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay, more rain and flooding in the winter and spring and more arid summers. Maryland's people and their property, natural environment and public investments are extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts.”

In short – we are all going to feel this.

It is encouraging to hear that, so far, state analysts say we are on track to achieve a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020, and economists say that we are going to create at least 26,000 new jobs through these projects at a net benefit of $4 billion to our state’s economy.

That’s jobs and economic growth. Not what you might usually associate with climate change.

One question I hope the philanthropy community will want to ask is – to whom will these jobs and these economic benefits accrue? Among funders and Maryland non-profits, we have a vibrant conversation underway about equity, jobs, and quality of life. Lynn Heller and Stuart Clarke, as philanthropy professionals, regularly raise questions about equity and vulnerable populations.

Lynn and Stuart’s service on this commission bespeaks more than just bringing the accumulated wisdom of philanthropy to the policy arena. They are also working to make sure that climate action in Maryland addresses equity and opportunity for all.

This should make the Maryland Climate Change Commission of interest to funders who care about workforce development, community and neighborhood development, basic human needs, and health.

We’ll keep you abreast of this Commission and its work through blogs and programs. Let me know if we can answer your questions or facilitate your engagement in the many ways that climate action in Maryland will be shaping our state in coming years.

Tags:  ABAG Members  Abell Foundation  Affinity Groups  Green Funders  September 2015 Members' Memo  Town Creek Foundation 

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ABAG's Green Funders and Workforce Development Affinity Groups Visit Hidden Parts of Baltimore's Landscape

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015

By Rebecca Ruggles, ABAG Green Funders Affinity Group Coordinator

So much we take for granted in our daily lives is the result of complex operations just out of sight. This is true for both our water and wastewater systems, and for the continuous movement of goods in and out of Baltimore Harbor.

Members of the Green Funders and Workforce Development affinity groups at ABAG have recently gone behind the scenes to see hidden parts of our greater Baltimore landscape.

In May, the Green Funders and a few guests toured the Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant in Essex. This is where everything that goes down the drain ends up.

With the capacity to treat 180 million gallons of "influent” daily, the plant occupies a 466 acre site owned by Baltimore City on the west shore of the Back River, which flows to the Chesapeake Bay. It serves 1.3 million residents of Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

If you’ve ever looked out over East Baltimore from Clifton Park or while driving out Erdman Avenue, you’ve seen two strange gold domes on the horizon. These are anaerobic sludge digesters, and they stand over 150 feet high. We stood on a catwalk inside these huge edifices after having walked all over the complex, seeing each stage in the complex process of sewage treatment.

In June, undaunted by our foray into the dark corners of wastewater, the Green Funders took a tour of another somewhat hidden feature of metropolitan Baltimore – the port. This time workforce funders and environmental funders joined together for a bus tour of three port businesses. Hosted by the Baltimore Port Alliance, funders and guests visited the operations of Steinweg, Ruckert and CNX.

At Steinweg, we were oriented to the volume of product being moved in and out of huge warehouses lining the shores of the harbor. The unique holding and handling requirements of different types of product dictate the nature of the operations. Steinweg, for instance, is retrofitting a warehouse to meet USDA requirements for handling organic grain. At Ruckert, we saw mountains of salt and learned about the 24 hour response required during storms when road salt is in constant demand. At CSFX, we heard how run off is managed from the coal piles that are visible just north of the 895 harbor tunnel.

On a tour last winter of the Dundalk Marine Terminal and Seagirt facility, members of the Green Funders saw ocean-going vessels being loaded with new vehicles, cranes lifting containers from ships and plunking them onto the backs of cabs, and acres of agricultural machinery awaiting transfer to other countries.

Seeing what’s behind the scenes of major features of our greater Baltimore region stimulates new conversations about how communities can benefit from jobs and be protected from pollution.

If you have an idea for a "behind the scenes” tour, let us know.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  Affinity Groups  Green Funders  July/August 2015 Members' Memo  Workforce  Workforce Development  Workforce Funders 

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Happy Earth Day!

Posted By Celeste Amato, Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 22, 2015

By Celeste Amato, ABAG President

Happy Earth Day!

This annual day dedicated to supporting the environment was first organized in 1970 and is now celebrated in more than 192 countries.

Earth Day has increased awareness of environmental issues and elevated concern for the health of our planet. Many U.S. foundations, businesses, and individual givers now focus funding on the environment. In fact, according to a recent Environmental Grantmakers Association report, in 2011, estimated funding to environmental issues by U.S. foundations reached an all-time high of $2.8 billion.

And, here in Maryland, our own funding community has done the same:

ABAG Project, the Maryland Environmental Health Network, convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector education, dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. The project envisions a Maryland where children and adults enjoy clean food, air and water, and benefit from safe environments in their homes, schools and communities.

ABAG’s Green Funders Affinity Group gathers regularly to explore topics related to community greening, sustainability, and environmental protection. These environmental discussions cross all sectors, impacting community development, human health, and economic welfare.

The Maryland 2015 Legislative Session met with newly elected lawmakers, including a new Governor, and an ambitious environmental agenda in Annapolis. On April 29 ABAG’s Green Funders will host a Legislative Wrap-Up, featuring reports from Dru Schmidt-Perkins of 1000 Friends of Maryland, and Karla Raettig of Maryland League of Conservation Voters, on their observations and the outcomes of major environmental campaigns. Representatives from Blue Water Baltimore and the Maryland Environmental Health Network will also bring their perspectives to the program. All ABAG members are welcome.

Rebecca Ruggles, our ABAG staff member who consults to the Green Funders and directs MdEHN says, "The synergy between funders and environmental advocates always impresses me. We are lucky to have philanthropic leadership that is helping to shape everything from Baltimore and Maryland's climate action planning, to the state's food system, to broad regional support for addressing polluted run-off and cleaning up the Bay."

Tags:  Earth Day  Green Funders  Maryland Environmental Health Network  May 2015 Members Memo  MdEHN 

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ABAG Project Director Enjoys the View

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014
February 19, 2014
By Rebecca Ruggles
Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network
Coordinator, ABAG Green Funders Affinity Group

Sometimes I feel I have the catbird seat! Being a staff member and project director at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG) gives me the privilege of participating in, and learning about, such a rich array of projects, campaigns, and studies. This past month has been particularly rewarding.

Wearing my two hats of directing the Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) and supporting the ABAG Green Funders affinity group, I get a great view of philanthropy’s impact on some of the most compelling challenges of our region, and - I would say - of our times.

For instance, in the last few weeks I’ve sat in on a Health Funders program on Baltimore’s major advances in improving birth outcomes, co-hosted an Annapolis reception for legislators focused on public health and environmental health issues, listened as affinity group leaders share strategies and topics, helped the Green Funders set their program agenda for the coming year, and participated in the work of the Climate Communications Consortium of Maryland.

This latter project, the brainchild of Stuart Clarke and the Town Creek Foundation, is tackling a fascinating challenge - how to get the message out across Maryland that "over 97% of climate scientists agree that human caused Climate Change is happening”.
The project seeks to convey that while Marylanders are at significant risk, there are many solutions for making our state more resilient in the face of sea level rise, extreme weather, and other threats.

The list does not end there. The Abell Foundation published a report last week about opportunities in Baltimore to build community-owned renewable energy projects. The report documents the potential to make Baltimore more resilient in the face of major power outages, with low income residents benefitting in the process.
It the should be of interest to all ABAG members who invest in community and economic development, work on safety-net issues and/or are concerned about poverty and inequity.

Also on the list of recent intellectual stimulants funded by ABAG members Abell, Campbell, and Bancroft is a Shale Gas Risk Assessment study released last week by Chesapeake Climate Action Network. It fills in a gap in the state’s analysis of risks from future shale gas drilling in Western Maryland. That report offers an independent risk assessment from a leading international environmental consulting group responsible for evaluating fracking risks for the European Commission’s continent-wide regulatory review.

Finally, I’ll close with our Maryland Environmental Health Network annual meeting last month. Our session for MdEHN partners, stakeholders, and funders took place in the midst of a snow day - and over 40 people showed up!
MdEHN Coordinator Allison Rich presented the 2013 accomplishments by MdEHN and our partners, and the list made us all proud. I know that our community and academic partners particularly appreciate the active role played in our MdEHN meetings by foundation staff from the Abell, Hilda & Jacob Blaustein, Zanvyl & Isabelle Krieger, and Town Creek Foundations.

Rebecca Ruggles directs the Maryland Environmental Health Network and serves as staff coordinator for the Green Funders affinity group at ABAG.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  affinity groups  Green Funders  MdEHN 

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School Greening in Baltimore City

Posted By Rebecca Ruggles, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Updated: Monday, July 8, 2013

June 26, 2013 

By Rebecca Ruggles, Director, Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) 

School greening is a national movement - and Baltimore is in the vanguard.

The Maryland Environmental Health Network worked with the Baltimore Sustainability Commission and staff of the Office of Sustainability to document the extent of recent investments in greening Baltimore public schools in the new report, "School Greening in Baltimore City."

The results are impressive.

We found an investment of about $2.5 million being made over the last two and a half years, and about 60% of City Schools have participated in school greening programs or practices of some kind.

What benefits come with adopting green practices in schools? We looked at the research and found a growing body of evidence documenting positive impacts on operating costs, academic outcomes, and school climate.

The benefits of green school practices are now well established and range from reductions in greenhouse gases emissions and energy cost savings, to improved student test scores and higher teacher and student retention. Of course, as a group dedicated to Environmental Health, we are also keen on the protections for children’s health that can accompany a greener school environment.

Our report was authored by Allison Rich, MdEHN's Children's Environmental Health Specialist.

She compiled data from 35 sources, and examined three specific questions:

  • What investment has been made to date in green practices in Baltimore City public schools and by whom?
  • How are academic and operational goals furthered by this investment?
  • Why should this investment be protected – and enhanced – as City Schools launches its 10 year plan for 21st Century Schools?

School greening activities engage students, teachers and families in new ways, and have been an important part of creating and sustaining the new wave of achievement, pride, and advocacy for Baltimore’s public schools.

Jamie Baxter, Program Director at The Chesapeake Bay Trust, commented: "So many other funders and supporters are involved. The Trust has supported schools with grants for environmental ed and restoration mini-grants. Its great to see that Baltimore City schools have been resourceful in tapping such varied sources of funding and support."

Interested in learning more? You can download and read the report here.


Rebecca Ruggles in the Director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network (MdEHN) which convenes diverse stakeholders in the fields of health and environmental advocacy, research, and community activism, to support cross-sector dialogue and action that results in better protection of both human health and the environment. This report is a publication of the MdEHN and was prepared by Allison Rich, Children's Environmental Health Specialist, with assistance from Rebecca Ruggles The Maryland Environmental Health Network is a project of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG).

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  ABAG Project  ABAG's Eye on Philanthropy  Adventures in Philanthropy  Environment  Green  Green Funders  July/August 2013 Members' Memo  Maryland Environmental Health Network  MdEHN 

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Green Funders Affinity Group Embraces Cross-Group Collaboration

Posted By Kim Snipes, Sunday, August 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, July 23, 2012

Continuing on the theme of cross-group collaboration, our Green Funders Affinity Group actively seeks and explores ways to highlight how issues related to the environment impacts other work supported by ABAG members. With our new chair, Julie Hester of the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, and the continued leadership of consultant Rebecca Ruggles, the Green Funders welcome your participation and encourage you to attend an upcoming program!

At the beginning of the year, Rebecca and I, with former chair Allen Hance, brainstormed our goals for the Group. A format that continues to work well for the group is to focus on an issue and allow ourselves the time to "go deep" on a topic. Not feeling that we had finished exploring human health and the environment, our first goal states that we will "continue to deepen members' understanding of the intersection of human health concerns and environment challenges." Our programs are designed to increase members' awareness of the pressing issues and promising work in the field. It is our aim that funders will feel more connected to the field which is changing rapidly and that this leads to an informed grantmaking strategy.

So, with an eye towards cross-group collaboration and deepening our knowledge on issues related to human health and the environment, three of our programs this year already featured collaborations with other affinity groups. Two joint programs with the Education Funders took us to Great Kids Farm and updated members on the environmental literacy requirements that will be implemented at the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

The recent program on the environmental literacy requirements highlighted the work and energy of several ABAG members - the Baltimore Community Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Constellation Energy. Collectively, these funders support advocacy efforts and the school systems (both Baltimore City Public Schools and other districts around the region) so that the requirements are not simply "another check box" on a long list of high school graduation requirements.

The requirements fit into existing work with the Maryland Green Schools and we were fortunate to learn from Bo Hoppin and the Boston Youth Environmental Network about how place based education in the Boston Public School System has measurably supported academic achievement. We also heard from Michael Sarbanes and Keisha Matthews about how the Baltimore City Schools are enriching existing coursework with the environmental literacy materials, resources and experiential learning. Ms. Matthews spoke about how the teachers are experiencing and participating alongside the students and are receiving professional development targeted towards integrating the new requirements into their lesson plans.

I encourage you to contact Rebecca Ruggles if you are interested in learning more or exploring your own funding interests for possible intersections with issues related to the environment and human health. We will explore the very topical issue of "fracking" and will hear from funders and the Health and Environmental Funders Netowrk about the widespread community mobilization around this issue.

Join us on October 19!

Tags:  collaboration  Education Funders  environment  environmental literacy  Green Funders 

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