Community Foundation Charts Way Ahead

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – 2022 at the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley was spent setting the stage for the future as the staff and board dedicated time to developing a strategic plan that lays out a path toward becoming a more community-centered organization.

Building on the racial equity footprint analysis completed in 2020, the Community Foundation engaged with consulting firm Work In Progress to create a three-year plan that will serve as a guide as the foundation continues its evolution as an organization.

“Both the staff and board of the Community Foundation spent countless hours working with our consultant to create this plan and then parsing through their recommendations to turn it into an actionable work plan,” says Shari Harrell, president of the foundation. “The process identified four major areas to become a more equitable organization: developing board and staff, sharing our mission, improving financial operations and funding strategies, and envisioning a community-centered foundation.”

With the plan completed, 2023 will be spent putting it into motion, Harrell says.

The strategic plan outlines changes to how the foundation operates as well as external work, including soliciting feedback from grantees on how the foundation can better serve them and “flattening” the foundation in an effort to bring in more community input for decision-making.

Some of that external work began in 2022 after being identified early on in the creation of the strategic plan.

Over the course of the year, foundation staff hosted three workshops – two in-person and one virtual, which was recorded and posted to the foundation YouTube channel – on the financial documents required in grant applications.

“One of the most frequent topics we get questions about from grantseekers are about financial documents like budgets and income statements,” says community relations and engagement coordinator Josh Medore, who led creating the workshops. “As a funder, we know what information should be in there and what’s often overlooked. Since we’re always working to be more transparent and better serve nonprofits, it made perfect sense to host these workshops and we plan to hold more in the coming year.”

Also launched in 2022 was the nonprofit mentoring network, which matched five local nonprofits that were looking to expand and improve their work with other organizations that have been in similar positions and do similar work.

Each organization selected was provided a $5,000 stipend to compensate it for its time, energy and expertise.

“We know that we don’t have all the answers or always have the capacity to provide direct technical support to nonprofits. The nonprofit mentoring network is a bold attempt at something the foundation has never tried,” says Casey Krell, the director of donor services and supporting organizations, who co-created the program with Medore. “Immediately, the feedback we got from nonprofits about participating was phenomenal. And now that we’re halfway through the first cohort, we’re hearing exciting things from the 10 organizations selected.”

The foundation welcomed Kat McGlothren as operations and grants administrator, while Devon Cleland was named finance director after joining in late 2021. At the Healthy Community Partnership, Robin Perry was hired as network coordinator after serving two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

In 2022, the foundation and its supporting organizations – the Western Reserve Health Foundation, Trumbull Memorial Health Foundation and William Swanston Charitable Fund – awarded $2.3 million in competitive grants, a small increase from the previous year.

The Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley was established in 1999. It has eight full-time employees.