Generous donors make hundreds of year-end gifts in the fourth quarter – keeping our Donor Services team extremely busy! We sat down with Guy Flynn, Chair of the Development Committee and Dara Schnee, VP of Philanthropy, to talk about this exciting time, how they work together, and how philanthropy has changed this year.
What does being Chair of BCF’s Development Committee entail?
Whether brainstorming initiatives to impact Baltimore’s neighborhoods, discussing a donor’s desire to help fund a particular project, introducing BCF to new foundation partners, or collaborating with my fellow BCF trustees to implement the budgetary aspects of the organization’s strategic plan, being Chair of the Development Committee is a tremendous treat for me. I get to work with an incredible staff of experienced development professionals led by Dara Schapiro Schnee, BCF’s Vice President of Philanthropy, and I get to lead—and also learn from—an incredible group of committee members, consisting of a diverse and experienced set of business, civic, and philanthropic leaders who are deeply committed to Baltimore’s success.
Why should donors choose BCF? Why now when there are so many organizations in need?
BCF is, at its core, the foundation for greater Baltimore. It is the philanthropic nerve center for the Baltimore region. When the citizens of Baltimore are in need, BCF matches donors to the need. In 2020, BCF’s systems were stress-tested to an unprecedented degree—and they passed with flying colors. The myriad pandemic-related social and economic traumas afflicting greater Baltimore this year have cried out for the exact type of systemic relief that BCF—in partnership with local governments and as the “convener of first resort” for Baltimore’s philanthropic community—is built to deliver. With its broad network of donors, its wide array of funds, and its deep knowledge of Baltimore, BCF has been uniquely able to perform at an elite level and serve Baltimore during this most challenging
How has BCF helped you achieve your personal charitable goals?
BCF’s donor advised fund (DAF) platform makes giving fun, efficient, and easy. Beyond the tax benefits of executing our philanthropy through BCF, my wife, Nupur, and I enjoy the one-to-one personalized attention BCF’s donor staff provides, as well as the incredible speed with which we are able to fund our initiatives through our DAF. Additionally, BCF provides us flexibility in coordinating with other platforms and nonprofits (such as The United Way, for example) with whom we have long-standing relationships to enable us to achieve our philanthropic goals collaboratively across multiple charitable networks.
Has your own giving changed during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are there giving options or causes that seem particularly urgent to you right now?
Nupur and I have always focused our philanthropy in particular on the arts and children. During the pandemic, those areas have been greatly impacted. Thus, she and I have redoubled our efforts this year—both in our own giving and in asking our fellow philanthropists to do the same. As a result, we were able to lead several successful fundraising campaigns this year, including one that raised nearly a half-million dollars to purchase Chromebooks for children in partnership with The Children’s Guild Alliance, and another for the “Your Walters” campaign, which raised nearly a half-million dollars toward the core operational and mission pillars of the Walters Art Museum, where I serve as president of the board of trustees. In both cases, Nupur and I were heartened by the outpouring of community and corporate support for these most worthy of causes—kids and the arts.
How does the Donor Services team work with and support the Development Committee?
There’s a very strong partnership between the Donor Services team and the Development Committee. The Committee helps extend our network to maximize the philanthropic dollars being put to use in Baltimore. It’s our job to make sure those vital resources and relationships are stewarded. They are also our eyes and ears on the ground, helping us understand the issues donors and communities care about and what partners are needed to effect change. We are grateful to have such an engaged group of committed Development Committee members, led by Guy, giving so generously of their time and energy.
How can BCF help donors achieve their charitable giving goals, beyond the mechanics of stewarding and distributing funds?
BCF is equipped to work with multiple generations exploring identities, legacy, and philanthropic values. We have team members who are 21/64 Certified Advisors and are here to help sift through the different factors that affect gift planning. We are also deeply engaged in local communities and able to give insight if donors aren’t sure where to start with their giving. In the past we have taken families on site visits or connected them with nonprofits to hear firsthand about their needs and gauge if it is a cause the donors feel deeply about. Philanthropy starts with passion.
Have you seen philanthropy change during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, how?
BCF is pretty universally respected as an entity that exists to try to improve the quality of life for all Baltimoreans. To the degree that we can do that as well as can be done, we will have accomplished something. There is a role for BCF in channeling funds to organizations that are doing important things in the community, It has been such a privilege to work at BCF during this uncertain time in our country and see the generosity of our community firsthand. We saw three to four times as many grants go out the door to nonprofits this year compared to the same time last year. Many fundholders also donated directly to our COVID-19 Evolving Community Needs Fund, which enabled us to do rapid response philanthropy for the greatest needs. In just six months, we’ve raised and distributed more than $2 million to provide food assistance, remote learning technology, eviction prevention services, health screenings, mental health counseling, and many other critical services. It’s really shown the extent of BCF’s capabilities.
What should donors think about as they consider year-end giving?
This year has been exceptionally hard for so many people and nonprofit organizations that communities depend on. Many nonprofits have had to lay off staff and forgo galas and events that bring in a lot of their budgets. So, as you consider year-end giving, give generously. If you have the funds now, give now because your support is truly needed. Consider alternate options like giving stock and please remember: Our team is here to serve and answer any questions you might have. ν