Black charities group to redirect its focus Developing partners, limiting issues seen as ways to be more effective

September 01, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Associated Black Charities Inc., after giving $4.2 million to 250 area nonprofit groups during the past decade, plans to focus on fewer issues and develop partnerships to increase its effectiveness.

Donna Jones Stanley, executive director for seven years, said the 27-member board of the nonprofit organization has decided it should seek more alliances to solve key problems, an increasing trend among nonprofit groups facing knotty challenges in tough economic times.

"Many issues can't be solved with a $25,000 grant," Stanley said. "And I can't think of a real social problem that can be solved by only one organization. We need alliances.

"Examples of issues we especially want to study are crime and how to redirect our youth; health care and how children can get the best care; [and] education and how can children be best educated for self-sufficiency later," she said.

To learn people's opinions on issues, the United Way agency will hold two types of meetings for scores of residents.

Groups of 40 Central Maryland residents and potential partners will be invited to attend five to seven "alliance-building" sessions through November. A committee of 100 advisers soon will begin meeting in small groups composed mostly, but not entirely, of African-Americans.

Marilyn Maultsby, board secretary and a director of Fidelity Health Systems Corp., said the board created its strategy to set priorities, strengthen its financial base, and respond to changes in federal programs and funding.

"Identifying issues we wish to focus on will help our grant process," Maultsby said. "The board feels that out of that, we will form alliances to serve the black community for the long haul. Welfare reform alone will have a major impact on services. We all have to join forces and maximize dollars."

Joseph Haskins Jr., chief executive officer of Harbor Bank of Maryland, is board chairman of Associated Black Charities (ABC), which will hold the meetings in its renovated offices at 1114 Cathedral St. The charity purchased the building last year.

Stanley, 40, a former United Way official, directs 12 staff members and relies on the help of 250 volunteers. She said greater self-sufficiency of aid recipients is a goal of the agency.

"We have funded and will continue to help soup kitchens and homeless shelters, but we want to teach people to fish, not just give them fish," Stanley said.

To build partnerships, ABC has created an Institute for Community Capacity Building, headed by Michael Cryor, a public relations executive and the next board chairman, to help train community leaders and offer technical help.

The Baltimore Community Foundation picked ABC to be a partner in a large-scale effort by Baltimore nonprofit groups to compete for a $5 million grant in 1997 from the Robert Wood

Johnson Foundation, of New Jersey, for programs to improve children's health and safety in Baltimore.

One new partnership with Morgan State University reflects the group's close association with black churches since its start in 1985. Using a $50,000 state grant, the two are conducting a yearlong survey of human services being offered by Maryland churches of various ethnic backgrounds.

"At a time of wavering federal assistance, churches offer many services other groups may not know about," Stanley said. "It's important they do." Legislators, businesses, philanthropies and residents -- all possible donors to ABC -- will get the data.

The Rev. Marion Bascom, retired pastor of Douglas Memorial Community Church, calls ABC "one of the best things that ever happened to black Baltimore."

The civil rights fighter during his 46 years at Douglas ("Days of dirty threats and nights of ugly calls") remembered ABC's birth in considerable controversy in 1985.

"We protested quietly, but with prepared papers, that United Way pretty much ignored the black community," recalled Bascom. "United Way came to understand that all kinds of groups should be represented. We just needed a slice of the pie, and they came to see the light. It's one of the few black organizations I'm proud and honored to be part of. It's made its mark in this town."

United Way in 1985 gave Bascom and other ministers, business nTC people and organizers a $100,000 planning grant, and the next year, $700,000. Bascom remains an adviser.

Overall, the group helps finance 18 Central Maryland programs in its three general areas of interest. The projects were extended a half-year past the end of ABC's fiscal year that ended June 30 while ABC decides its new direction. Some individual grants will continue.

The three areas, along with typical recipients, are:

Economic development. A $10,000 grant went to Umoja Children Inc., whose Entrepreneur's Institute at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church introduces youths to the world of business by the sale of all-occasion cards.

Community development. A $4,600 grant to Reservoir Hill Advisory Board, 2001 Park Ave., helps that group develop a plan to strengthen the neighborhood.

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