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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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The Latest ABAG Member News

Posted By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Monday, March 17, 2014
Updated: Monday, March 17, 2014


March 17, 2014

Highlights of news and information about members of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

ABAG Members: Send us your news and press release and information, so we can help spread the word about your good work!


  • The Rauch Foundation published the new report "Launched,” which documents the success of the mergers of several nonprofits into what is now Blue Water Baltimore.


  • Congratulations to all the recently announced 2014 Maryland Top 100 Women! Nice to see a number of ABAG Members and former staff on the list too! Sheryl Goldstein,The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation; Sophie Dagenais,Annie E. Casey Foundation; Gabrielle Dow, Baltimore Ravens; Fran Cashman, Legg Mason; JaNean Stubbs-Taylor, SunTrust Bank; Amy Seto, Baltimore Community Foundation, and Lea Gilmore, The Moving Maryland Forward Network


  • Read Across America Day was on March 3 and the Weinberg Foundation and its Baltimore Library Project partners have been celebrating all month by collecting new children’s books that will fill the shelves of transformed school libraries. From March 3 - 31, bins are available at dozens of Baltimore-area businesses, organizations, and schools. Simply place your new children’s books inside the bins! You can visit the Library Project website, for a listing of this year’s drop-off locations.
  • The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County and the Anne Arundel Women Giving Together Giving Circle are hosting Molly Barker, Founder of Girls on the Run, at their Women & Leadership Event on March 19 in Annapolis.
  • This year's Frederick County Nonprofit Summit is on March 25 at Frederick Community College, 7:30 am – 1:00 pm. Leaders from The Ausherman Family Foundation, Community Foundation of Frederick County and The PNC Foundation, along with the United Way of Frederick County, High Glen Estates, and Maryland Nonprofits planned and are executing the event this year.
  • The Abell Foundation is hosting a presentation on March 28 on that report: "Clean Energy for Resilient Communities: Expanding Solar Generation in Baltimore’s Low Income Neighborhoods”. For more information or to RSVP for that meeting, contact Lynn Heller at Download the report here.


  • ABAG held a well attended "Understanding Corporate Grantmakers" session several weeks ago. Thank you to panelists Laura Howard of Kaiser Permanente, Brooke Hodges of Bank of America and Leanne Posko of Capital One for sharing their experience and wisdom!
  • ABAG recently held a Workshop on Collective Action, a cross-sector approach to solving complex social problems. Thank you to Dee Athey of United Way of Central Maryland and Kurt Sommer of The Baltimore Integration Partnership, who answered questions about local collective impact efforts.
  • Anna Bard of Wells Fargo and ABAG's Adam Donaldson meet with Congressman John Sarbanes during the recent Foundations on the Hill #FOTH2014 during Philanthropy Week in Washington.
  • ABAG was pleased to attend the VIP ribbon cutting last week for the Maryland Science Center’s newest permanent exhibit -Power Up!, a $1.8 million exhibit featuring interactive components where visitors can explore and experience exciting hands-on activities.. The ceremony included representatives from Constellation, the exhibit’s funder, and the Baltimore Ravens, which partnered with Constellation inSacks for Science, a program sponsoring bus trips for students to see the exhibit.
  • ABAG was pleased to attend the screening of "Inequality for All" on March 10, sponsored by The Woodside Foundation, with a panel discussion after that included Diane Bell-McKoy, President of Associated Black Charities


Tags:  ABAG Member News  Adventures in Philanthropy  March 2014 Members' Memo 

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ABAG Groups Find Value in Connecting

Posted By Elisabeth Hyleck, Monday, March 17, 2014
Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2014
Updated: March 20, 2014

By Elisabeth Hyleck
ABAG Strategic Initiatives Director

Several weeks ago ABAG leaders of Affinity Groups, roundtables and projects braved frigid temperatures to gather in the ABAG conference room. Rescheduled once due to snow, this dedicated group was eager to meet to share their groups’ interests and work for 2014. It is the fourth year we’ve convened our group leaders – those members who volunteer to lead ABAG groups along with the staff who support them.  Group leaders, as well as a couple steering committees, help to develop educational programs and facilitate communication among members including enewletters, listserves and targeted emails.

The feedback about the meeting is consistent – the group leaders find value in hearing what others are interested in and exploring synergies and collaboration between groups, and discussing program design. We believe this gathering leads to more programming that cuts across multiple issue or explores various sides of an issue.

ABAG is committed to support these forums for members to explore issues, share knowledge and expertise, and strategize to address critical issues and improve community conditions. 

ABAG’s newest group is the Neighborhood and Community Development Funders Affinity Group, an outgrowth of the Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative.  The goals of this group, led by Ann Sherrill along with co-chair Buffy Minkin of the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, are to: 

1. Build relationships among ABAG members interested in neighborhood and community development;
2. Share information, research and ideas for impact and leverage; and
3. Explore opportunities to align resources and strategically think about how community development resources are allocated in Baltimore City and the surrounding region.

Their first program, 21st Century Schools – How is Baltimore Leveraging This Investment for Our Communities?, is a perfect example of the cross-cutting programming being planned by our Affinity Groups.

Affinity Groups and educational programs are open to all ABAG members and are publicized on our website and through the bi-weekly "ABAG Upcoming Programs” email. 

Please let me know if you'd like to be added to an Affinity Group or roundtable list.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  Affinity Groups  March 2014 Members' Memo 

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Highlights: Profile of Education Giving

Posted By Karen Alexander, Monday, March 17, 2014
Updated: Thursday, March 20, 2014
Updated: March 20, 2014

By Karen Alexander
ABAG Education Funders Affinity Group

ABAG is excited to present Highlights from our 2013 Profile of Education Giving, which aggregates data about our members’ investments in education. In 2013, ABAG disseminated an online survey to all ABAG members.

We received responses from 43 ABAG members about the education-related organizations they support and their education focus areas. The survey respondents included private and community foundations, donor advised funds, and corporations with strategic grantmaking programs.

While the data do not encompass all education-related giving in the Baltimore area, the findings provide a useful snapshot of the various types of education giving and the broad scope of community investments in local education efforts.

Here are some of the major findings from the survey:

• In 2012, ABAG members contributed more than $40 million to education efforts in Maryland through more than 1,100 grants to more than 500 organizations.
• Of that total amount, more than $21.3 million went to organizations working with Baltimore City Public Schools, to individual schools, and to the district itself.
• More than half of the survey respondents support early childhood programs, as well as mentoring programs and activities for students during after school or extended school hours.
• More than one third of the respondents support projects for summer learning, arts education, children’s literacy, and STEM, as well as college and career readiness initiatives.

The full report provides ABAG members with a clear picture of the scope of education-related grantmaking in the Greater Baltimore region and helps our members connect with colleagues who also care about specific education issues.

We greatly appreciate ABAG member participation in the 2013 Profile of Education Giving project!

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  Ed Funders  Education  Education Funders  March 2014 Members' Memo  Profiles of Education Giving 

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Recent Reports from the Field

Posted By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Thursday, March 13, 2014
Updated: Monday, March 17, 2014
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Foundations on the Hill another Marker in the Tax Reform Marathon

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Monday, March 10, 2014
Updated: Monday, March 17, 2014

March 10, 2014

By Adam Donaldson, ABAG Member Services Director

Last week, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers joined over 200 leaders from across the philanthropic sector for Foundations on the Hill and the combined activities of Philanthropy Week in Washington.  Despite snow and below freezing temperatures in Washington (both literally and figuratively), Maryland’s Members of Congress gave warm welcome in our meetings and expressed strong support for foundations and charitable giving.

On behalf of all our members, I attended:

  • lunch with Tim Delaney, President, National Council on Nonprofits;
  • the board meeting of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers;
  • the joint Forum and Council on Foundations Government Relations Councils meeting;
  • the ACR Summit for Leaders for an insider’s look at the legislative landscape on Capitol Hill;
  • PolicyWorks for Philanthropy  speaker event Looking into the Crystal Ball: Future of State and Federal Tax Incentives for Charitable Giving;
  • meeting with Congressman John Sarbanes and staff member Raymond O’Mara;
  • meeting with Senator Barbara Mikulski and staff members Aaron Edelman and Laurel Albin;
  • meeting with Jedd Bellman, Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Elijah Cummings; and
  • the House Philanthropy Caucus congressional staff briefing on the role of American Philanthropy.

Anna Bard, Community Affairs Manager for the Mid-Atlantic at Wells Fargo, Tim Huber, Research and Policy Associate at Council on Foundations, and Mike Litz, President of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers helped ABAG illustrate the impact of philanthropy and remind our elected officials that tax policy matters to foundations and nonprofit organizations.  With the President’s budget again calling for a cap to charitable deductions and Congressman Dave Camp’s plans for tax reform, the sector faces legislative challenges.

What we learned is that Members of Congress know about the efforts of Maryland’s grantmakers.  In conversation, they revealed deep personal histories with ABAG members and awareness of philanthropic achievements.  ABAG members may have felt their ears burning March 5-6, and should feel confident in open and easy communication with elected officials in Washington, DC.

Expressing strong support for the charitable deduction, Senator Barbara Mikulski taught us to stop thinking about incentives for charitable giving just in terms of money won or lost.  What is at stake is participation in civic life, where citizens combine their skills, time, and resources to address community needs together.  We hope all agree that a thriving society requires a strong nonprofit and philanthropic sector.

Congressman Sarbanes recommended vigilant monitoring.  Congressional leadership signaled that comprehensive tax legislation will not move to a voting stage in 2014, but there are many ideas discussed in the context of tax reform that will directly impact the operations of foundations and nonprofit organizations.  Congressional staff asked that we keep them informed -- with specific detail --the potential impact of tax policies on Maryland. 

With and on behalf of our members, ABAG will do just that – monitoring and informing. We are already past the first marker in a marathon race toward tax reform.  Slowed by snow and national politics, tax reform will still happen.  Private and community foundations, supporting organizations, donor advised funds, and nonprofit organizations are all public charities under the tax code.  Suit up in your Under Armour ColdGear® and join us in the marathon.

Tags:  Charitable Deducation  FOTH  March 2014 Members' Memo 

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Blue Water Baltimore – “Launched”

Posted By Cathy Brill, Monday, March 10, 2014
Updated: Monday, March 17, 2014
March 10, 2014
By Cathy Brill, Rauch Foundation
Three years ago, after helping to support the merger of five watershed organizations into Blue Water Baltimore, the Rauch Foundation had a number of requests from funders across the country to share the story of the merger, so we put together a report that highlighted the entire process and lessons learned.  
The report was well received, but we knew that the real test would be what happened over the next couple of years –after the "happily ever after.”  We’re all familiar with merged organizations that failed a couple of years post-merger, or never quite realized their full potential.  In light of that, we promised to put out another report two years after the merger and share our journey.
Well, time has a way of rushing by, so it’s been three years, but at last we have published "Launched.”  
It details what happened after the merger and the lessons that we’ve learned along the way.  We have found it helpful to reflect on the steps that were taken by the new organization, what worked (and what didn’t), and what we might recommend others do differently.  Staff, board members, project partners and grantmakers have shared their perspectives on this experience as Blue Water Baltimore now moves beyond its merger years and reaches full stride in advancing a clean water agenda for the region.
As of January 2014, Blue Water Baltimore is governed by a 23-member Board of Directors and employs 17 full and part-time staff. It has approximately 390 members and 4,500 people who volunteered their time over the course of the previous year.  Its 2013 budget was approximately $2.5 million.
We divided the report into a few key sections:  Staff and Operations, Programs and Partnerships, Board of Directors, and Budget and Fundraising, telling the story and teasing out recommendations.  
Here are a few of the key lessons:
•        Hiring an interim director or temporary transition assistant might be a good strategy for resolving lingering merger tasks efficiently.
•        Plan time and resources for branding a new organization.
•        Large initiatives can divert energy from localized relationships.
•        Recognize and reduce any overlap between board and staff roles that may have resulted from the merger process and transition period.  
At the end of the day, ours is a happy story: the merged organization has become much larger, stronger, and more influential than its legacy organizations.  
We hope that funders thinking about supporting or pushing for mergers of grantees will find the story and lessons useful.  

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  Environment  March 2014 Members' Memo  Mergers  Nonprofit  Rauch Foundation 

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Foundations on the Hill 2014 Begins #FOTH2014

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Wednesday, March 5, 2014
March 5, 2014

By Adam Donaldson, ABAG Member Services Director

This week ABAG participates in Foundations on the Hill, joining regional association colleagues and member philanthropists in Washington, DC to highlight the impact of philanthropy in local communities.

Americans donated an estimated $316.23 billion to charitable causes in 2012; giving by foundations was an estimated $45.74 billion.  Individual Marylanders contributed $4.9 billion and 1,479 Maryland private foundations invested $745 million to address critical community needs and improve our quality of life. 

The charitable sector employs one out of every seven private workers in Maryland.

Meeting with Members of Congress and their staff, I will explain that philanthropy helps communities thrive through:

Grantmakers are more risk-tolerant than public entities and flexible with their funds, enabling them to test new ideas and advance those that are most effective.

Grantmakers are neutral brokers that bring together diverse stakeholders to work on critical community issues such as schools, health and economic development. 

Grantmakers contribute expertise, local relationships, and resources to public-private partnerships to bring successful programs to scale, promote effective policies and work for systemic change.

I will also explain that tax policy matters to philanthropy.  Our philanthropic organizations are created under the tax code, and we want to be consulted on tax reform. The DC meetings take place one week after Congressman Dave Camp introduced a comprehensive tax reform plan that included several proposed changes that concern philanthropy. Click here for details..

Although both Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell have said tax reform is not on the agenda this year, as the Council on Foundations has stated, “it will provide a critical starting point for comprehensive tax reform conversations in the near future.”

ABAG will always promote a tax code that provides strong incentives for charitable giving and maximizes the use of private money for public good.  While working hard to improve communities in Maryland, we cannot forget the potential harm or benefit from decisions in Congress.  Look for an update next week on what we learn from our Senators and Representatives.

Led by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, Foundations on the Hill is part of Philanthropy Week in Washington, March 3-7, an inaugural week-long series of events and activities, including the ACR Summit for Leaders, which highlight the role of philanthropy in our society. Hosted by the Council on Foundations, the week provides an opportunity for philanthropic leaders to spend time on Capitol Hill highlighting the impact of philanthropy in Member’s districts and states. #FOTH2014 #PWDC | #PhilanTHRIVE.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  Charitable Giving  Charitable Giving Coalition  Charitable Tax Deduction  FOTH  March 2014 Members' Memo  Public Policy 

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The Giving Life: Stories About the Purpose, Passion, and Power of Generosity and Service – Jilliane Shear

Posted By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Monday, March 3, 2014
March 3, 2014
In November 2013 we held an inspirational evening showcasing individual stories of generosity and service.

Seven people - philanthropists, activists, community, and public service workers – each told a 5-minute true, personal tale about the transformative power of leading a "giving life.”

Presented by The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers’ Betsy Nelson Legacy Fund and The Stoop Storytelling Series, the evening highlighted giving and honored the goal of the Betsy Nelson Legacy Fund – to encourage and promote philanthropy in our community.

With the theatre alive from the music of Baltimore musicians Letitia VanSant and the Bonafides, The Creative Alliance at the Patterson was filled with members of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, nonprofit partners, friends and members of the community who came together to be inspired by a diverse group of people excited to share their story of giving.

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts designed to bring each story to life. Our hope is that this event and these help to catalyze more giving in our community

Everyone Has a Story. What’s Yours?
"Eight years ago when my daughter was born ... the one thing I knew I wanted to share with her in my life was running.”

Jilliane Shear is a crazy and fun coach who brings happiness and joy to children. She inspires and motivates kids even on days when she’s not feeling so inspired herself.
Read our other blog posts from ABAG's The Giving Life series:  

The Betsy Nelson Legacy Fund aims to share philanthropy's message beyond the ABAG membership and to build connections between charitably-minded people, organizations and institutions to strengthen our community. As the Resource on Grantmaking, Network for Givers, and Voice for Philanthropy, the mission of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers is to maximize the impact of philanthropic giving on community life through a growing network of diverse, informed and effective grantmakers.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  Betsy Nelson Legacy Fund  BNLF  Giving  March 2014 Members' Memo  Philanthropy  The Giving Life 

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Baltimore Library Project Celebrates Read Across America Day … All Month!

Posted By Kate Sorestad, Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014

February 26, 2014

By Kate Sorestad

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation

Monday, March 3, is Read Across America Day, and the Weinberg Foundation and its Baltimore Library Project partners will celebrate all month by collecting new children’s books that will fill the shelves of transformed school libraries. From March 3 - 31, bins will be available at dozens of Baltimore-area businesses, organizations, and schools. Simply place your new children’s books inside the bins! Keep checking the Library Project website,, for a listing of this year’s drop-off locations.

The Weinberg Foundation will also be offering a new and improved online book drive! Every $7 donated puts one book on the shelf of one of these new school libraries. Again, just go to to donate.

You can also use your phone to scan the QR code on print promotional materials like this mailer. You will be linked directly to the donation page! Look for our postcards or Book Drive bookmarks (both include the QR code) at Barnes & Noble, The Power Plant, 601 East Pratt Street or at any one of the many community branches of Enoch Pratt Free Library! 

"While transforming libraries is the goal of the Library Project, without new books the students will miss out on the opportunity to explore the fun of reading,” said Rachel Garbow Monroe, Weinberg Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. "In partnership with The Heart of America Foundation, this event has collected more than 27,000 books, valued roughly at $150,000, at more than 100 sites across the Baltimore-metropolitan area in the last two years. With this year’s new online donation tools and focus, we expect an even greater response.”

The Weinberg Foundation is also encouraging businesses and organizations to promote a "spare change” campaign – to have employees give their spare change in a central location with the grand total shared as a gift online.

This would be a wonderful way to contribute to our Book Drive even if you aren’t hosting a donation site! Please share with others to promote this great opportunity.

We look forward to publicizing wonderful stories of individuals and organizations supporting this year’s Book Drive in unique and powerful ways. We hope you will find a way to take part and share the gift of reading and literacy.

Located in Baltimore? If you are a business, organization, place of worship, or school and would like to collect new children’s books, email me, Kate Sorestad at to arrange for a collection bin to be sent to you.

Not in Baltimore, but still want to help? Click here to visit the Library Project website. There is something for everyone. Be part of our story and fill the shelves!

Tags:  A Word From Our Members  Adventures in Philanthropy  And Now  Library Project  March 2014 Members' Memo  Weinberg 

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