Towne Salute: Marc Dziedzic of the Friends Foundation
Apr 19, 2016 12:25PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Within the first few minutes of our meeting, I’ve come to the conclusion that Marc Dziedzic boasts the perfect balance of humbleness and humor—a trait recognizable in many Towne Salute nominees.
Dziedzic is a founding member of the Friends Foundation, an Annapolis-based organization established in 1998. Its philosophy is simple: to raise money for those in need.
“By doing something fun with friends,” he adds.
Despite the organization nearing its 20-year anniversary, Dziedzic jokes that the board isn’t as formal as one might think. Rather than designate titles and roles to each member, the nonprofit is more like a group of friends, as its name suggests.
“But if you get a letter from me it’ll say ‘Treasurer’ because I have the accounting software,” he says, with a laugh.
The Friends Foundation was established in honor of the group’s two friends who died in an automobile accident almost twenty years ago. Initially, they wanted to throw a fundraising party in memory of their friends, but they weren’t sure how to go about doing so. Fortunately, a few local charities took the group under their wings, teaching them how to navigate the often tricky waters of setting up a nonprofit.
The party soon turned into a walk, Dziedzic says. With a name chosen—the Cystic Fibrosis Friends Foundation Walk—and a fundraising goal set—$5,000—the group was finally ready to embark on its mission. And to everyone’s surprise, it exceeded any expectations, raising about $12,000.
In the following year, the Friends Foundation hosted its first golf tournament and holiday party—the same two events that continue to be held each year. In between, the group has tried its hand at several other fundraisers, namely a wine tasting event and crab feast that still arise occasionally, but the majority of its efforts remain tied to those original two endeavors. The beneficiaries of each event, however, are constantly changing.
“Anne Arundel Medical Center, the Summit School, the Lighthouse Shelter,” Dziedzic says, listing charities that have benefited most recently from the Friends Foundation events.
The parameters for selecting a charity is flexible, he says.
“There’s no hard or fast rule. It’s usually local. And we have a preference for organizations that benefit children,” he adds, explaining that the group welcomes charity suggestions for future events.
Take last year’s Holiday Party, for example. The event raised more than $300,000—$277,000 of which directly benefited the National Brain Tumor Society’s Defeat Glioblastoma Collaborative. The remainder supported other local causes within Anne Arundel County.
“When you get to cut a check like that, it feels good,” he says.
While the board has evolved, it’s more or less the same initial group of people, with Dziedzic continuing his almost two-decade span as the Friends Foundation accountant, along with a variety of other behind-the-scenes responsibilities that he notes aren’t so glamorous.
“There are always ‘Thank You’ cards to be written and sponsorship letters to send,” he says.
Though he might disagree, those little things are extremely important to any nonprofit organization. And it’s obvious that Dziedzic’s willingness to assume those duties is why the Friends Foundation finds him so invaluable.
“Marc is not only the guy that everyone wants on the board, he is the friend that everyone wants,” says Rick Foster, another founding member. “Always real and always there in both contexts.”