BALTIMORE (AP) — Greg Cantori, the grandson of an English butler who said the will to serve others is in his DNA, was recently named as the new president and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits, a group of 1,400 members from statewide nonprofit agencies.
"I love nonprofits," said Cantori, 52. "They provide the unique safety net that may be missing. They are important in so many ways."
Cantori is a 1979 graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and a 1983 graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who earned a degree in cartography, or map making, there. He worked for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, formally known as the Defense Mapping Agency, on troop support during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
But Cantori said he always volunteered to help others, and that devotion is what led him to a new career path.
"My day job was maps and my night job was volunteering to help the homeless," he said. "I have a strong (sense) to help others. My grandfather was a butler, an English butler, and the sense of others was just passed down. It's a wonderful way to live."
As the director of Maryland Nonprofits, Cantori will work out of the headquarters at Union Mill in Hampden. He said his first order of business after starting the job on Oct. 1 will be to travel throughout Maryland for 90 days and meet others involved in the nonprofit world.
"It's a process of traveling around the state and listening to what our nonprofits need and want," he said. "I want to listen carefully to where our nonprofit sector is in Maryland in the aftermath of the great recession, and what they are doing to take up the slack of reduced government services and reduced government funding."
Maryland's 28,000 nonprofits receive funding from corporations, foundations, individuals and government sources. Those funds have been cut over the past five years as the recession's grip has tightened budgets from private industry to public sources.
"It has definitely created a two-pronged pressure of reduced funding and an increased need for services," Cantori said, of the economic crisis and its impact on nonprofits. "What's remarkable is how resilient the nonprofit sector has done in working with less money and providing more services."
He blamed "poor decision making" on certain industries — such as investment banking and greed in the nation's corporate structure — for placing a strain on the middle and lower class, which has, in turn, placed a strain on nonprofits.
"Folks haven't gotten the kinds of service they had gotten," he said. "The resilience is that the nonprofits have figured out ways to make it work by collaborating with each other, increasing services and finding new volunteers."
Cantori said he plans to begin leadership training classes to help repopulate the ranks of the state's nonprofits, which he said are aging.
"I want them to look at the nonprofit sectors as an exciting place to realize their visions for the future," he said. "That they can actually get paid to do it and can make a career out of it."
Cantori is the executive director of the Downtown Sailing Center in Baltimore, a nonprofit that teaches disabled persons how to sail. Located near the Inner Harbor, off Key Highway in Locust Point, the center has sailing classes for those battling disabilities that include autism, multiple sclerosis and blindness, Cantori said.
He officially began his nonprofit career in 1993 as executive director of Light Street Housing Corp. There, he established a program focused on "homelessness to homeownership." Cantori also served for 12 years as director of operations at the Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Foundation, and as advisor to several nonprofits including the Herbert Bearman Foundation and One Less Car. He is a board member of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.
Maryland Nonprofits board Chairman Tom Hyatt said in a statement that Cantori's experience will help to move the agency forward.
"Greg brings an impressive record of leadership experience to the position, having served as the CEO of two nonprofit organizations and played key leadership roles in the region's foundation community," Hyatt said.