Nonprofit community groups in Prince George's County figure it's good business to think like a business.
They are going after donors in the business community by selling them on the bottom-line value of charitable giving.
Desiree Griffin-Moore, executive director of the Prince George's Community Foundation in Bowie, said nonprofits are seeing businesses looking for value in what they do, and that includes looking at their charitable contributions the same way they look at their investments.
"It's no longer a warm and fuzzy kind of thing," but a real investment where donors--Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Bank of America, Potomac Electric Power Co., to name a few of her own--expect visible results, said Griffin-Moore, whose nonprofit raises funds for community programs.
To that end, the Community Foundation monitors its grantees constantly and reports back to donors on progress, which is evaluated at least once a year before a new grant is awarded, Griffin-Moore said. The Community Foundation produces a slick annual financial statement and progress report, which Griffin-Moore shows to existing and prospective donors to market her organization and to demonstrate its effectiveness, she said.
"It benefits no one to just give this money away," said Torod Neptune, a spokesman for Bank of America. "We need to ask, 'How can we identify and address those issues in that specific community?' " To help it achieve those results, Bank of America relies on the expertise and monitoring of the Community Foundation.
Businesses recognize that fund-raising for nonprofit events is not just about giving but also about developing important business connections and increasing visibility.
"Companies are being more strategic in the things they support," making sure that it relates to their corporate mission, said Joseph J. James, president of the quasi-public Prince George's County Economic Development Corp. Corporate giving these days is less about "general benevolence" than donating to educational programs and programs that enhance companies' community visibility and marketing, said James, whose organization raised $130,000 for its operations from 30 businesses last year.
In the past few years, Landover-based Giant Food Inc. has asked some organizations to do their fund-raising in and around its grocery stores, so the stores and the nonprofits benefit from increased foot traffic, said Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant. Instead of simply cutting a check for a requested donation, Scher sometimes writes back to regional organizations to ask, "What can you do for us?" and a partnership is born, he said.
Giant typically receives 100 requests for donations a day, and this year plans to donate almost $8 million in cash and in-kind goods to help schools and charities, Scher said.
There are indications that corporate giving in Prince George's is on the rise.
Last year, Prince George's County's $1.1 million in corporate and individual contributions to the United Way campaign grew 5 percent over 1997, compared with an area-wide average growth of 3 percent.
The numbers aren't in yet for this year's contribution levels, but nonprofit watchers predict the county is likely to benefit, like most areas throughout the country, from a rising stock market and lucrative initial public offerings that are creating vast amounts of individual wealth.
"It's totally booming," said Tom Riley, director of research at the Philanthropy Roundtable, an Washington-based association of about 600 donors. Corporations, individuals and foundations in the United States donated $170 billion last year and should give about $200 billion this year, he said.
Riley said combining goodwill with a business mentality is a national trend among donors. "It's smart for them," he said, because successful business people don't want to be ineffective in how they give away their money, he said. "Donors really light up about local, hands-on organizations that can really change people's lives," so their biggest concern is finding intermediary groups that will help them donate effectively, he said.
Indeed, corporate dollars come with high expectations, said Carole A. Vitale, executive director of the Prince George's Educational Foundation in Suitland. Businesses are holding nonprofits accountable for meeting certain goals.
Businesses say to her, "I want to see tangible results for what I'm going to give you," said Vitale, who raises money from businesses to sponsor programs to supplement the public schools. Last year, the two-year-old foundation gave out $40,000 for programs throughout the county, and Vitale said she tracks every dollar, so she has a track record to which she can refer, if necessary.
Vitale collects detailed expenditure reports and results, which now include the outcome of summer programs, she said. The program is still very new, so "with more time, we'll be able to show a difference, and then it will be easier for us to go out there and make the case for funding," she said.
The 18-year-old Prince George's Community Foundation also keeps close tabs on its grantees.
Griffin-Moore and her staff of two manages and dispenses funds with specific goals--such as Bank of America's inner-Beltway revitalization fund and Freddie Mac's early childhood education fund.
Currently, the foundation manages six such funds and has assets of more than $500,000.
"We can be sure that money is being spent well," because the Community Foundation is in constant contact with programs and grass-roots organizations in the county and knows which ones are functioning well, she said. It makes donating easier for individuals and corporations because Griffin-Moore also handles filings with the Internal Revenue Service and monitors the progress of each program.
Griffin-Moore said corporate philanthropy makes sense for the work force and can lead to bigger profits. "I think that companies are realizing that they are a critical factor of how a community gets defined, [and] the healthier those communities are, the healthier those employees will be," she said. "It's a totally different way of thinking."