Column: Low-profile nonprofit has huge global impact

By Maria Saporta
Friday, July 16, 2010

It is well known that CARE, the Carter Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all are based in Atlanta. But few people are aware that another major global nonprofit — MAP International — has made Atlanta home.

MAP International was founded in 1954 in Chicago, to help distribute essential medicines and medical supplies to poor countries.

Last year alone, the organization distributed $422 million in supplies and medicines (wholesale value) to 119 countries. It has 95 corporate partners — mainly pharmaceutical companies and medical suppliers — that help provide the products that MAP distributes around the world.

In addition to distributing medical supplies, MAP International also has teams around the world doing community health and training work. It has eight overseas offices — three in Latin America, four in Africa and one in Asia.

In all, it has trained more than 1,200 health promoters in Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Kenya and the Ivory Coast in the past five years.

Originally, MAP International moved its headquarters and distribution base to be close to both the Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla., container ports in 1985.

“We opened the Atlanta office in 2001 to serve as the global headquarters,” said Michael Nyenhuis, president of MAP International. That gave MAP the opportunity to interface with Atlanta’s corporate community and other global institutions, including the Carter Center, CARE, Emory University and the CDC.

MAP received a grant from the Woodruff Foundation to move its headquarters to Atlanta and it is now located in the Hurt Building downtown. The nonprofit has about 10 people based in Atlanta, about 40 in Brunswick and another 250 in its eight overseas offices.

“We are a hidden little secret,” Nyenhuis said. “We are not good about getting the general public to know who we are.”

But since the economic collapse a couple of years ago, Nyenhuis said, a lot has changed for nonprofits.

“We are looking at different types of alliances,” he said. “We do really quality work in the niches where we work.”

It already had been working in Haiti for decades distributing medical supplies before the earthquake earlier this year. “We put in about $20 million worth of medical supplies in just the first six weeks after the earthquake,” Nyenhuis said.

MAP International has the highest rating from Charity Navigator and a 99 percent efficiency rating from Forbes magazine.

“If we don’t become better known, we are going to face problems that many nonprofits face, and that’s one of survival,” Nyenhuis said.

MAP International did serve as the local agent in the Ivory Coast for the Carter Center’s program to eradicate guinea worm. “There have been no cases of guinea worm for three years in the Ivory Coast,” Nyenhuis said.

Nyenhuis first became aware of MAP’s work when, as a journalist, he visited its operations in Honduras and Ecuador.

He joined MAP in 1995, as its “in-house journalist” and then became president in 2000.

Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE, spoke highly of MAP International saying “they are terrific” and “do a lot with a little.”

It is those kind of global partnerships that Nyenhuis and Gayle believe can be expanded among the nonprofits in Atlanta.

“I think we have a great opportunity to increase the visibility of Atlanta as an international city, given the wealth of international organizations,” Gayle said. “However, I’m not sure Atlanta as a city has embraced the vision or that the international organizations have a forum to be more integrated into the city.”

She did say that she’s “enthusiastic” about the possibilities of Georgia State University’s new World Affairs Council.

“I think that might start creating a global forum here in Atlanta that can be a glue for the respective international organizations and businesses,” Gayle said. “We have a lot to build on here.”

Almost $700K for women

Atlanta Women’s Foundation will announce July 21 that it is giving away $668,500 as part of annual grant-making process to organizations in the five-county metro Atlanta area.

The foundation’s grant-making committee is co-chaired by Paula Goodman of Best Buy and Cindy Brazell, a partner with Jones Day.

It is part of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation’s continuing investment of $11 million that it’s made in the last 12 years to organizations that support women and girls.

The foundation is able to make its financial contributions through money raised as part of its annual “Numbers Too Big to Ignore” luncheon, and through private donations.

The next luncheon is scheduled for Oct. 28, and it will feature Malaak Compton-Rock, a dedicated humanitarian who is the wife of comedian Chris Rock.

G-P staying in Ga

Jim Hannan, CEO of Georgia-Pacific, made it clear that the company is not leaving Atlanta. During his talk to the Rotary Club of Atlanta on July 12, Hannan gave an update on how Georgia-Pacific LLC has been doing since the company announced it was being acquired by privately held Koch Industries in December 2005.

Hannan said people keep asking him whether the company is going to remain headquartered in Atlanta.

“Yes,” Hannan said. “Our leadership is in Atlanta. Our board meets in Atlanta, and we are very happy to be here.”

Hannan also said that he hoped “you see us as very engaged in the Atlanta community.” The company, which employs 45,000 workers worldwide, has 7,000 employees in Georgia.

Hannan also spoke highly of metro Atlanta’s “qualified” workforce, and said Georgia-Pacific had “access to the best air travel in the world” thanks to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

But Hannan also added: “The best thing we can do for Atlanta is to continue to be successful.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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