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News & Press: ABAG's Baltimore Business Journal Column

ABAG's BBJ Column: The Business of Doing Good

Tuesday, June 18, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz
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June 18, 2013

By Celeste Amato, Contributing Columnist

President, Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers

Baltimore Business Journal

Foundations and nonprofits all too often believe that "the work will speak for itself.”

In most sectors communications to multiple audiences is standard business. Businesses with good ideas want existing customers, new customers and the world to know about their products or services. That’s how businesses grow. That need, in the philanthropic sector, is really no different.

Foundations invest in improved communities and quality of life through research and development, and in project and program implementation primarily through nonprofits. When an effective model for positive community benefit is identified and successfully tested how are we letting people know? How are we communicating with potential partners who can help us grow a model to scale and benefit more people? We aren’t -- at least not often enough, not consistently enough and not effectively enough.

We don’t always see ourselves as the innovative business sector that we are – the sector where models for social change and benefit can be tested and proven. Typical news releases often focus on dollars out the door rather than impact achieved with foundation support. The need to change the way we talk about our work and the reach of our communications is becoming increasingly clear. Research from the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative (PAI) suggests that philanthropy faces an "awareness deficit” even among the most engaged citizens in our communities. Only four in 10 can name a foundation. Only one in 10 can identify a foundation’s impact on an issue they care about.

We need to talk more, not just to each other, but to the audiences beyond the individual projects we implement and the immediate geography and community we benefit.

Increased federal scrutiny of philanthropy is also pushing us to step up our communication efforts. Over the last several years there has been considerable activity in Washington on budget and tax matters that could have a significant effect on the future of the nonprofit and philanthropic sector. Even incentives for individual charitable giving are under attack.

Ours is a sector free of normal business constraints and uniquely positioned to take an adventurous approach to investment in problem solving and quality of life for all citizens. Sharing our business stories can help spread promising practices, earn champions, attract new ideas, and encourage more giving. And it can combat the awareness deficit among public and policy leaders.

It is wonderful work to explore and implement ways to make communities better places to live for all citizens – and the vital role of this sector in shaping the future of Baltimore and Maryland is why I am excited to write this column for the BBJ.

Let’s seize every opportunity to talk about the business of doing good.

Celeste Amato is President of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG). As The Resource on Grantmaking, The Network for Givers and The Voice for Philanthropy, ABAG is a membership organization of more than 145 private and community foundations, donor advised funds, and corporations with strategic grantmaking programs - representing the vast majority of institutional giving in Maryalnd. Celeste can be reached at:,

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