Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Effect on Strong City of Ransomware Attack and Proactive Audit of Associated Black Charities

Daffodils in front of row houses. Photo by Avi Werde.

This post was updated on October 18, 2019.

Baltimore City and its nonprofit and philanthropic sectors have been challenged by several chaotic events between May and September. The most significant of these have been the ransomware attack on the City’s information technology systems, an audit of Associated Black Charities’ (ABC’s) management of the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund (BCYF), and impactful changes in Baltimore City’s political leadership 

The ransomware attack caused a substantial delay in the normal operation of city contract and payment systems, among many other problemsAnd, the City’s request that BCYF financials undergo an audit has unexpectedly delayed the processing of about $5 million in grant payments to Baltimore’s communities as ABC has had to focus on meeting the requirements of the audit.  

Many of our fiscally sponsored projects, fiscally managed clients, and direct programs receive funding through contracts and grants with Baltimore City and/or were awarded funding through the Baltimore Children and Youth Fund. 

Strong City Baltimore’s daytoday operations have been acutely impacted in the wake of these challenges, which have also affected our initiatives and their community partners.  

Daily, our staff are working with extremely delayed processing of city contracts, increased scrutiny of reports required to facilitate payment to Strong City and its initiatives, and a sixmonth lag in payments for work already completed.  

Fortunately, Strong City’s fiscal sponsorship and management structures have cushioned some of the impact of these delays. Other organizations operating with reimbursable funding from Baltimore City started to feel the impacts of these challenges by mid-May. By summer, Strong City began straining to maintain the historical five-day turnaround of vendor payments, and our initiatives started to experience the adverse effect of delays. While we were not able to fully cushion our initiatives from adverse impacts of these delayed payments, we still believe that our work as a fiscal sponsor prevented this serious administrative burden from falling fully on grassroots organizations and leaders, and allowed important summer programming to continue largely uninterrupted. 

The ransomware attack and BCYF audit have required Strong City staff to spend large amounts of time working with the city and funders to verify and re-verify that invoices and reporting are complete and accurate, following up on delayed payments, and interfacing with city leadership to ensure accountability on contract and payment approval timelines. It has prevented our staff from focusing on day-to-day operations and has delayed our year-end close and audit.  

We are working with Baltimore City, ABC, BCYF leadership, initiative leaders, and other organizational partners to get these matters resolved as quickly as possible so we can return to our standard operations. We appreciate the partnership of all of these groups as the City’s nonprofit sector works to overcome these unexpected challenges. We are also implementing new policies and procedures that will help us resume business as usual and be better prepared to address similar challenges in the future.   

We hope that while these struggles continue to take their toll on Baltimore, Strong City, and our beloved communities, we can rely on the patience and trust of initiative leaders, vendors, and other stakeholders. Thank you for your continued support at this time. 

Media Inquiries: 

Samantha Solomon
Digital Media and Communications Manager
ssolomon@strongcitybaltimore.org
(410) 397-0582 

Initiative and Partner Inquiries: 

Tyson W. Garith
Director of Operations
tgarith@strongcitybaltimore.org
(410) 261-3509