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Charitable donations

September 26, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Mack Trucks Inc. and The Herald-Mail are very different companies, but officials with both cited the selection of which charities receive money as the hardest part of their jobs.

"You want to say 'yes' to everyone," said Patti Friend, communications manager at Mack Trucks.

"It is probably the most difficult thing that we do," said John League, editor and publisher of The Herald-Mail. "You just can't give to everyone."

As part of her job, Friend sits on a committee of employees that decides which groups the company will give money to.

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The committee gives preference to charities that will affect the most people in the community, with health, safety and education-based groups most likely to receive money, Friend said.

While they are solicited for money from groups outside Washington County, the priority is always to give money to local charities, Friend said. Charities suggested by employees are given more weight, she said.

League said he gets between 10 and 20 requests from charitable organizations per week.

Historically, between 50 percent and 60 percent of The Herald-Mail's charitable donations go to the same groups each year, League said.

The newspaper also donates to some occasional events such the Battle of Antietam re-enactment, he said.

The Herald-Mail gives to about 40 to 50 groups per year, League said.

Phil Kelly, spokesman for Citicorp Credit Services, said the company has certain guidelines it is required to follow when deciding which charities will get its money.

One of the factors examined is the organization's track record, Kelly said. Groups recommended by employees are given special attention, he said.

Citicorp gives money to about 35 groups and provides sponsorships to about 40 others, Kelly said. While sponsoring community events is charitable giving, Kelly also considers that good marketing.

Allegheny Energy Inc. used to be a big sponsor of cultural events and community activities in Hagerstown, including the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the Western Maryland Blues Fest, and it encouraged executives to serve on civic boards.

But Allegheny ended most of its sponsorships and moved many of its top executives out of Hagerstown before announcing in April that it was moving its headquarters from Washington County to Greensburg, Pa.

While Allegheny Energy no longer is a Blues Fest sponsor, the event sponsors fluctuate somewhat each year, said Karen Giffin, spokeswoman for the City of Hagerstown, which helps organize the event.

Other companies stepped forward with enough contributions to make up for the fact that Allegheny was not a sponsor of the last festival, she said.

Sponsorships come in two forms - one is cash donations and the other is in-kind contributions, such as getting posters printed or providing banking services for free, Giffin said.

While the contributions help fund the event, they also make the organizations more a part of the event, she said.

"We could not do the Blues Fest and many other events without sponsorships," Giffin said.

As a not-for-profit business, Washington County Health System Inc. has some limitations about donations that private businesses do not, Health System President James Hamill said.

It also has guidelines established by the board of directors, Hamill said.

The board gives money to organizations that work to improve the community's health, including the Community Free Clinic, he said.

The health system, the parent company of Washington County Hospital, also underwrites the cost of the Community Health Center on Walnut Street and the Trauma Center, Hamill said.

First Data Merchant Services has a foundation, the First Data Western Union Foundation, with a board that makes decisions on which charities will get funding, said Ellen Brown, foundation program director.

The foundation gives grants to nonprofit organizations around the world, in addition to other charitable work, she said.

Applicants for money must go through a rigorous application process through which a variety of questions are asked, she said.

The donations must meet the foundation's mission of supporting education, health and basic human services.

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