Baltimore Urbanite: New Ideas in Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship

In the January issue of Baltimore’s Urbanite magazine, the cover story discusses several path-breaking social innovations that they predict will play a large role in improving life in Baltimore – and in the world beyond – in the coming year. (See Locally Grown: Ten Bright Ideas that Will Bear Fruit in Baltimore in 2011, by Marianne Amoss, Greg Hanscom, Jennifer Walker, and Andrew Zaleski, Baltimore Urbanite, Jan.2010.) The entire article is worth reading, but two of the trends in particular caught our attention.

First, there is the special “benefit corporation” or “B corporation” that was created last year by a new Maryland law. According to the Urbanite, a “B corporation” is a company that not only intends to make a profit, but also is dedicated to “advancing the greater good in areas such as health, the environment, and education.” An article on “B corporations” in Bloomberg Businessweek last year noted that “…Under existing corporate law, company directors can face lawsuits if considering outside stakeholders is seen to damage the financial interests of shareholders. …” (See Maryland Passes ‘Benefit Corp.’ Law for Social Entrepreneurs, by John Tozzi, Bloomberg Businessweek, 13.Apr.2010.) Without this designation, the Businessweek article contends, social entrepreneurs can have a difficult time raising the capital they need to fund a business with an explicit dual mission – profits and social good.

The Urbanite points out that, although B corporation status provides no tax breaks, advocates for the new status hope to change this in the coming years. The article also sounds a cautionary note about the possible abuse of B corporation status as a mere marketing tool, and the need for stringent standards to ensure that B corporations live up to their claims of social responsibility.

Another of the Urbanite‘s top ten innovations is the trend toward volunteerism – individuals donating their time and talents to schools, soup kitchens, and other nonprofits that serve the public – even while financial contributions have been declining due to the slow pace and uneven distribution of the economic recovery. Money is tight for most Americans, the Urbanite points out, and this is reflected in the precipitous falloff in donations to nonprofits – a drop of $12 billion from 2008 to 2009. At the same time, though, volunteerism has been soaring to new heights, with 1.6 million more people volunteering in 2009 than in 2008, according to statistics from the Corporation for National and Community Service, cited in the article.

Both of these are hopeful developments, pointing to an increasing level of public interest in solving the problems we face together as a society. These ideas are of special interest to the Murthy Law Firm and MurthyNAYAK Foundation, where we believe that doing well in business and doing good in the community go hand in hand. Although the Murthy Law Firm was organized many years before the advent of the B corporation, the idea resonates with our own longstanding commitment to corporate philanthropy, and with our careful, deliberate integration of this into our own business model. We look forward to having more company – and more companies – that feel like we do, and act on it!

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.