Portland has plenty to offer local residents and visitors alike. From its famed restaurants and breweries to its working waterfront and thriving arts scene, it’s no wonder that Maine’s largest city attracts more than 5 million tourists per year.

However, while we should celebrate feature stories in Bon Appetit and countless five-star Yelp reviews, our community’s great amenities should not overshadow the good work quietly being done across the city – every single day. Portland’s many nonprofit organizations make a wide range of important contributions to our local community and beyond.

Indeed, we would not have as strong a local community without the contributions of those nonprofits. They may not serve world-renowned oysters or brew Halloween-themed pale ales, but their work brings Mainers closer together, strengthens our communities and improves our quality of life.

For such a small state, our support of the nonprofit sector is quite strong. Maine is home to more than 360 private and community foundations, which hold over $3 billion in assets and give more than $180 million in charitable grants – not just in Maine, but also across the world. Donors like the Maine Community Foundation account for over $30 million in annual donations within the state – 100 percent of their total giving.

Of course, individuals represent the other side of that coin. While foundations make up roughly one-quarter of all charitable giving in Maine, individual Mainers contribute more than 70 percent. And their contributions extend beyond checks and cash: Nearly 40 percent of all Mainers volunteer on an annual basis, which comes out to about 450,000 people contributing almost $950 million worth of labor. On a per capita basis, that’s the equivalent of each volunteer donating over $2,200. In terms of hours volunteered per person, our state ranks in America’s top 10.

But we can do more on behalf of our local nonprofits, and that starts with the business community. Of the $760 million in total charitable giving that Maine sees every year, only 5 percent comes from corporate donations. That is simply not enough.


Remember: You don’t have to run a large corporation to “afford” nonprofit donations, whether monetary or in-kind. Small businesses can chip in, too, and we are chipping in already. At Benchmark Real Estate, we pride ourselves on giving back 10 percent of our profits every year. And we are by no means alone: In Maine, there are countless examples of good corporate citizens – from community banks and law firms to retail shops and restaurants.

We understand that “business” transcends the bottom line; it means understanding the value of social responsibility. Just like our clients and customers expect top-notch service, the general public expects business leaders to be socially accountable – to do right by others. Roughly two-thirds of Americans expect the business community to lead on social change.

Lead, we must. While corporate donations are important, true leadership requires something even more: partnerships that yield long-term value. Local nonprofits need your donations, but they alone won’t sustain a nonprofit’s initiatives or ensure their success for years to come. Business leaders should work with their counterparts in the nonprofit sector, providing formal or informal assistance when it’s needed most. This may include marketing help, operational support or something else entirely.

In addition to volunteering and writing checks, our approach is to simply recognize the good work being done by our nonprofit neighbors. We host many events throughout the year to bring awareness to the nonprofits that enrich our community. This month, Benchmark is hosting its annual Four A Cause holiday party to celebrate four local charities, which participated in an online video voting contest to share their respective missions and promote their work.

Events like these foster a sense of community, reminding nonprofits and all of their potential volunteers, donors and clients that they are an integral part of that community. This year, Four A Cause will celebrate Spark Dance Program, La Leche League of Portland, In This Together and Madeline’s Mission.

The next time you give money or time, ask if there is even more you can do to help our Maine nonprofits truly thrive. Nonprofits depend on donations, but they also depend on strong partnerships with socially responsible companies.

Comments are not available on this story.