Against Long Odds, a Corporate Funder Doubles Down on a Troubled City

Against Long Odds, a Corporate Funder Doubles Down on a Troubled City

A city of neighborhoods defined by compass points, Baltimore is known for its unique culture, but more widely for drugs and violence. West Baltimore came to national attention in 2015, with the death of Freddie Gray and the civil unrest that followed. 

Until then, the city had been experiencing a modest upswing compared to other areas of urban blight, thanks to anchors like Johns Hopkins and its location along the Northeast Corridor, just a quick train ride from D.C. and New York. Its population had increased slightly, and signs were pointing to growth, including new businesses and a residential hub by the waterfront. 

The uprising stopped that trajectory in its tracks. Since 2015, the city’s been unable to escape from the kind of systemic violence, policing issues, racial inequality and problems of entrenched poverty that characterized the Baltimore of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Last year, the FBI reported it had the worst homicide rate among the nation’s 50 largest cities, and the second-highest violent crime rate overall.

So where does that leave the residents and businesses that call Baltimore home? And how can philanthropy hope to reverse these trends—or even make a sustainable impact—against such long odds?

Committed to Baltimore

T. Rowe Price, the global asset management firm, has been based in Baltimore since its founding in 1937. Today, it employs 5,200 associates in a city of roughly 620,000. In 1981, the company created the T. Rowe Price Foundation, which has made $121 million in grants since its inception. The foundation’s level of giving has increased steadily since 2010, growing from $2.6 million to $4 million last year—$10 million when including employee matches. 

The seaport city has undergone rapid demographic shifts since the time when its major industries were manufacturing, heavy industry and rail. Baltimore’s movement toward a service-based economy now aligns with its major employers, from Johns Hopkins to financial services firms like T. Rowe Price. 

Add the long-term community engagement of key stakeholders, residents who are willing and able to help determine their futures, embedded partners who are open to taking calculated risks, and the conditions may be right for successful place-based philanthropy. The T. Rowe Price Foundation certainly thinks so.

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Source: Inside Philanthropy


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