Since Tom Wilcox arrived here in 2000 to become president and CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF), the city has witnessed a now-you-see-‘em/now-you-don’t burlesque of changes among its top officials – at City Hall, the police department, fire department, health department, public schools – that includes a mayor and a police commissioner convicted of low crimes and misdemeanors. Simultaneously, the city, sometimes by accident and sometimes by design, also has witnessed dramatic improvements: notably, a decreased crime rate, increased student test scores, and, probably thanks to the Internet, greater transparency at various government agencies. Partial credit, certainly, goes to a handful of forward-thinking municipal administrators, who, given a forum, loudly declaim their achievements. More quietly, the progressive policies of the BCF and its nonprofit brethren – true “BELIEVE” types – have just as demonstrably enhanced Baltimoreans’ lives.
As head of the BCF, now in its 40th year, Wilcox rides herd on 600-plus varied philanthropic funds, organizing “grants, initiatives, and advocacy around a vision of a Baltimore with a growing economy,” according to the foundation’s website. Last year, the BCF dispensed more than $20 million in grants to hundreds of local, regional, and national nonprofits. Specific to the metro area, its Invest in Baltimore agenda, co-crafted by Wilcox, “encompasses and measures coordinated efforts to reduce poverty, stimulate economic growth, and assure a high quality of life in Greater Baltimore.” In essence, BCF shepherds donors’ charitable giving by matching benefactors to their particular areas of interest: neighborhoods, education (including scholarships), health, and the arts.