Black Charities: blacks also give


The words by Frederick Douglass on the right grace the annual report of Associated Black Charities, an organization established seven years ago to funnel charitable donations to community groups serving the black community of central Maryland.

Those words are also something of a rallying cry for ABC, a group that aims to organize the charitable giving that goes on among blacks in Greater Baltimore.

Since its formation, ABC has given away more than $2.8 million to help fund more than 78 programs attacking problems hitting the black community particularly hard. Among the programs: literacy, child care, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, services to the elderly, health care and violence prevention.

That money may seem small when compared to the United Way of Central Maryland, which in 1991 raised $39 million in pledges for 108 agencies.

But as far as ABC officials are concerned, the group is off to a good start.

"We are relatively new on the scene," says Donna Jones Stanley, who recently celebrated her third anniversary as executive director of ABC. "Our contributions have increased over the years and while there are blips in every organization, our contributions have steadily gone up."

Ms. Stanley said that ABC has continued that growth, despite the on-going recession. "Every organization has been affected by the downturn in the economy," she said. "People who would normally be contributors, some of them are out of work and in need of help themselves. And while they still love us, they are not in a position to help us."

Last year, ABC raised about $1.2 million, of which $791,000 was given away, Ms. Stanley said. The remaining money goes to endowment and to pay for overhead, Ms. Stanley said.

That money ABC raised came through a variety of channels. There are institutional gifts. Some people checked ABC off on their United Way pledge cards. Others gave directly through employee check-off programs run by the city, state and federal governments.

And still others contributed by attending gala fund raisers staged by the group. In the past year or so, those have included a Ray Charles concert and a gala jazz night where organizers re-created the feel of Pennsylvania Avenue during its heyday. That fund raiser was held at Coppin State College.

"You have to be creative," Ms. Stanley says.

The money raised by ABC came from 5,000 different contributors, a tiny number in a region with a significant black population. But, she says, the number of contributors should grow as ABC becomes better known.

"A lot of people out there just vaguely know that there is an Associated Black Charities," Ms. Stanley says. "Those who know us think we've done a pretty good job."

Many people confuse the group with the United Black Fund of Greater Baltimore and the National Black United Fund, two other groups that collect charitable donations and make grants to groups working in the black community.

Ms. Stanley says she does not view those groups as competition, pointing out that the United Way began as a mishmash of small groups.

Ms. Stanley also says she has no concern about the willingness of blacks to give. They give freely now, she said, but much of that effort is diffused and, as a result, goes uncounted.

"Study after study shows that people who have a limited income tend to give a larger percentage of their money to charitable organizations," she says. "The black community tends to be more community oriented. We help each other in the community and those dollars are not accounted for. We give through our churches and those dollars aren't counted by the traditional counters of dollars."

Ms. Stanley hopes that ABC can help organize that giving -- something she says could help increase the impact of black charitable giving.

"I look forward to when we can says the black community gives $100,000 in a certain area and we can account for them," she says.

Right now, ABC is in the midst of organizing a series of town meetings. The goal is to in refine to the group's focus and bring them into closer contact with the public.

"We're trying to get the word out about what it is we do," Ms. Stanley says. "When people know about us, they tend to want to give."

"If we are ever elevated, our elevation will have been accomplished through our own instrumentality...No people that has solely depended upon (outside)...aid...ever stood forth in the attitude of freedom..."

Frederick Douglass

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