Community Foundation Overhauls Grant Making

YOUNGSTOWN – Like many others, the staff and board of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley were not impressed with what 2020 had to offer. 

There were some areas of light among all of the darkness, however. And the team is grateful to have come out of last year with a greater understanding of the humanity and community that binds the Mahoning Valley, says Shari Harrell, president.

One bright spot was the foundation’s collaborative approach to grant making during the pandemic. Traditionally, individual applications are administered for general grant making, various internal funds and CFMV’s three affiliated foundations.

“Because of COVID-19, all of those funders came together, pooling collective resources to address the immediate and basic needs of the community,” Harrell says.

A stronger partnership with The Raymond John Wean Foundation and The Youngstown Foundation created the common COVID-19 Response and Stabilization Application and leveraged funding to quickly respond to needs.

The foundations were honored in November at National Philanthropy Day.  “It is truly the grantees, nonprofit organizations and local leaders who deserve the recognition,” Harrell says.

More than $780,000 raised by 74 groups, corporations, foundations and individuals built the Mahoning Valley Community Response Fund. Some $500,000 has been awarded for 70 projects and initiatives. Applications are still being taken.

This year, upgraded software will make the grant making and scholarship processes easier, including a new universal scholarship application that allows students to apply for multiple opportunities with one online form. The foundation also looks to hire an accountant and is working with Third Space Action Lab in Cleveland to conduct an organizational race equity assessment.