After a week of nonviolent protests following the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore erupted on the evening of Monday April 27. Stores were looted, cars were burned, tear gas hung in the air.
On the morning of Tuesday April 28, leaders of the Baltimore Community Foundation gathered to discuss what BCF’s role and response should be, and quickly decided to establish The Fund for Rebuilding Baltimore. We determined the Fund would be offered to our donors and others as a way to contribute toward repairing the physical and emotional damage that had been done — and strengthening our community for the future. We declared we would not charge a fee on the Fund, and committed to transparency and over-communication. We crafted an announcement and set about spreading the word. And our community investment team hit the streets and the phones to start assessing needs.
That Tuesday, national media were still looping the same sad footage of the previous night’s events. But here in Baltimore, people were turning out: to sweep up glass, board buildings, make sure children had a safe place to be while the schools were closed, feed those cleaning up and the police officers on duty. It was a proud day to be a Baltimorean.
When we established The Fund for Rebuilding Baltimore, we tapped into a deep, broad, urgent desire to do something to help our city heal. This Fund is, in a way, the perfect articulation of community philanthropy. It invites broad participation and promises to represent the interests of many donors in addressing the current pressing needs of the community. It represents the nexus of BCF’s strongest traits: transparent management of charitable funds, decades of experience in responding to community needs at the neighborhood level, and an abiding concern for race, equity and inclusion.
Because of the confluence of all of these characteristics, we have experienced an unprecedented response to our call for donations, and a truly astonishing reach in traditional and social media. For instance, our first Facebook post announcing the Fund was shared 235 times and reached 19,472 people. Since then, we have heard from people across the country and even overseas who care about Baltimore and who want to help.
We lost track of the number of people who offered to hold various fundraisers for the cause: multiple tee-shirt sales, a specialty pizza at a popular restaurant, an e-Bay auction of memorabilia from a local band, a comedy show (or was it two?), a yoga class...it seemed that every day we heard about another effort to raise money for #rebuildingbaltimore.
The task that lies ahead: granting the money in a way that fulfills the charitable intent of the 500-plus donors to the Fund and makes good on the promise to “rebuild Baltimore,” is the more daunting side of the equation. But I am confident that BCF is up to the challenge. We are, after all, a community foundation.