Nonprofits' association says charity doesn't start at home Task force to find ways to boost Md. donations

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Charitable giving has barely kept pace with inflation, voluntarism is declining and government doesn't keep up with the demands on social programs, says the Maryland Association of Nonprofits, citing local and national surveys.

Private donors may contend they are squeezed enough and the association says, "Private charity can't do it all." But that isn't keeping the association, some nonprofit organizations and some businesses from this conclusion: Maryland needs more giving.

The association helped push a bill through the General Assembly this year, creating "The Maryland Gives! Task Force on Charitable Giving" effective July 1.

"We are hoping for major breakthroughs from the task force to come up with strategies for dramatic increases in giving," said Peter V. Berns, executive director of the association, which represents 611 Maryland nonprofit organizations.

The association's own proposal in Annapolis was for the group to suggest ways to double the rate of giving in five years, so that if a company gave 1 percent of its budget for charities, that would be increased to 2 percent. But that was rejected in favor of the vague phrase "dramatic increases."

The task force is expected to develop and give the General Assembly and governor by Nov. 1 recommendations for changes in the tax law or other public policies that would prompt such increases.

The group also would use state resources to promote more giving, study the potential economic impact of substantially increased giving and set "a baseline measure of individual and corporate philanthropy and to chart progress toward achieving goals."

"We don't know how much Marylanders give, whether it's increased or decreased, how much is going to Maryland charities or out of state," Berns acknowledged in explaining the need for a baseline.

As an example, he guessed from 1993 figures that Marylanders gave $2.7 billion. This was deduced from the fact that deductions for giving on tax returns were $1.9 billion and a national gauge says such deductions represent two-thirds of donations in a state. But Berns said he was not confident about the estimate and hoped the task force would get more accurate figures.

The group, to operate until 2001, will include a delegate from nonprofit organizations, members of the Senate and House, and people representing business and the public.

Charities lobbying for the bill included United Way, Maryland Independent College and University Association, Catholic Charities and the Associated Jewish Community Federation. Supporters included NationsBank, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Nonprofit organizations are part of a growing industry in Maryland employing more than 180,000, 7.3 percent of the adult work force. More than 11,000 nonprofit groups operate in the state, about 4,000 of them with at least one part-time employee.

Pub Date: 5/27/96

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