Five Forward-focused Functions of Community Foundations

Ohio’s 133 community foundations have evolved rapidly in the last few decades—and especially in the past several years. Take a look at how community foundations are improving the quality of life in communities throughout Ohio.

1. Convene

Community foundations gather together local stakeholders to maximize impact.

Spotlight: The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF)

In 2013, GCF held the Big Idea Challenge, where community members submitted their ideas to enact positive change throughout Greater Cincinnati. Out of more than 200 proposals, seven finalists were selected by 6,000 area residents. GCF gave grants to each of these winners to bring their ideas to life.

Spotlight: The Scioto Foundation

For 15 years, The Scioto Foundation has focused much of its energy on the 14 Scioto County school districts. Through its UCAN program, the foundation offers training workshops for volunteers from each district to learn about scholarship endowments, fundraising, AP courses, and the college application process. Today, each school district is able to provide scholarships and other financial aid to its graduates.

2. Collaborate

Through strategic relationships, community foundations raise awareness and support for local causes.

Spotlight: Delaware County Foundation

The Delaware County Foundation established Women Giving Together (WGT), a women’s giving circle. Throughout the year, members of WGT pool their contributions, learn about the opportunities and needs of their county, and distribute funds across the community. In five years, WGT has given 28 grants to local charities totaling more than $64,000.

Spotlight: Toledo Community Foundation (TCF)

The Center for Nonprofit Resources was launched by TCF in 2002 to provide training and technical support to local nonprofits. Driven by the foundation’s mission to inspire philanthropy, the wide variety of programs includes certification in nonprofit management and in executive leadership.

3. Embrace technology

With just a few simple clicks, donors can instantly support the causes that matter most to them.

Spotlight: The Columbus Foundation

The Big Give, hosted by the Columbus Foundation and its nonprofit partners, is a 24-hour Internet giving marathon to help thousands of people give to central Ohio nonprofits. In 2015 alone, 19,000 donations to 587 nonprofits totaled $15,002,597 during the Big Give. These contributions were bolstered by a bonus pool of $1.4 million.

Spotlight: Marion Community Foundation

The Marion Community Foundation partners with a leading payment gateway to accept credit cards and electronic check payments from donors. It includes the company’s privacy policy on its website, as well as a listing of all component funds. In addition, the foundation also allows donors secure, online, any-time access to details about their funds

4. Revitalize communities

Communities have come together to accomplish signature projects and community foundations take the lead.

Spotlight: Licking County Foundation

In late 2013, the foundation was given a historic building built by architect Louis Sullivan on the square in downtown Newark. After raising the seed money to determine the scope of renovation, the foundation has engaged community members to consider the best use of the revitalized building and to generate funding for continued restoration efforts.

Spotlight: Springfield Foundation

The Springfield Foundation was instrumental in starting Springfield Promise Neighborhood (SPN), a placed-based and asset-based poverty alleviation project.  Working in partnership with many other community resources and organizations, its pilot project focuses on residents in the attendance zone of a single elementary school. The project works in four interrelated strategic areas: school readiness, community and family engagement, youth development, and responsive schools.

5. Invest in economic development

Community foundations harness the power of individuals and businesses to invest in their cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

Spotlight: The Cleveland Foundation

Partnering with organizations like the Economic and Community Development Institute and JumpStart, The Cleveland Foundation helps local entrepreneurs find needed resources. In the past year, The Cleveland Foundation invested in high-growth industry clusters, helped young people learn skills for in-demand local jobs, empowered female and minority entrepreneurs, and spurred new business growth.

Spotlight: The Richland County Foundation

The Richland County Foundation hosted community discussions on ways to make families economically stable. Following a community-wide survey, the foundation decided to invest in the Richland Community Development Group (RCDG). They made a five-year commitment to RCDG to fund two staff positions, stepping down the grant amount each year as RCDG increases its internal financial capacity.

As social and cultural norms transform Ohio communities, so too do community foundations. Drawing inspiration from the business world and new technologies, community foundations are in tune with the people they serve. Philanthropy may look different today than in years past, yet the spirit of giving promoted by community foundations remains timeless.

Diana S. Newman, executive vice president of Benefactor Group, focuses her consulting practice on helping foundations and associations. Formerly vice president for development at the Columbus Foundation, Diana is the author of Nonprofit Essentials: Endowment Building and Opening Doors: Pathways to Diverse Donors. Tell her about your foundation’s changes and innovations at [email protected].