Nonprofits Should Share Tales of Generosity

Nonprofits Should Share Tales of Generosity

In my previous column, I outlined the public policy challenges ahead for nonprofits and philanthropy in 2011. One of my colleagues, Adam Donaldson, member services director at the Maryland Philanthropy Network, makes the point that now, as Congress and the Maryland General Assembly wrestle with record deficits and the national debt, there is greater need to promote understanding of philanthropy and showcase the work of local grantmakers and nonprofit organizations. Otherwise, our leaders are making decisions about us without knowing us.

Here is what Adam has to say.

"Like many, I used to mark anonymous on the pledge form with my charitable gifts so I would not be listed in any annual reports. Anonymity seemed to infuse my donations with sincerity; plus my mom always warned me that I would start to be solicited by all of the ‘cancer people’ and then my name sold to the a sheriffs’ association who would call during dinner. She was right. Moms always are.

"But now I have caller ID, and what Mom later acknowledged is that knowing about my donations motivated her to give as well. Now I tell anyone who will listen what charities I support and why I care about their work. On an individual scale, each name listing and conversation ignites interest in my causes and inspires more giving.

"On the scale of institutions, the same lesson leverages investment in their work and aligns partners to maximize community impact. I am convinced that nonprofits and foundations should share stories of their generosity and successful strategies to address community needs. Stories can help spread promising practices, earn champions, attract new ideas, and encourage more giving.

"The Maryland Philanthropy Network has always worked with grantmakers to promote their good work. We channel these stories through news media, including the bi-weekly column in The Daily Record, and Maryland Philanthropy Network’s blog, website (, e-newsletter, along with Facebook and Twitter.

"These efforts combat a measurable awareness deficit among the public and government leaders. In the field of philanthropy, national research conducted by the Philanthropy Awareness Initiative found that only four in 10 influential Americans can name a foundation and only one in 10 can identify a foundation’s impact on an issue they care about. Nonprofit organizations are better known because they deliver direct services, but too few of us have knowledge of the operations, strategies, and collaborations propelling those services.

"We are all ambassadors for the organizations we care about, whether it is simply our favorite coffee shop or a national cancer research center. Whether a donor, staff member, or trustee of a foundation or nonprofit, you have a communication role to play. And now, perhaps more than ever, it is vital also to educate legislators about the role of nonprofit organizations and philanthropy in society.

"I hope one of your New Year’s resolutions will be to step away from anonymity and help build awareness of your charity. Start with your Mom, but then ask your favorite organization how you can help.”


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