Community Foundation Works Harder, Smarter

By Shari Harrell
President, Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Like almost every business in the Valley, the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley faced more competition for resources and had its capacity stretched to the limit in 2021.

Three positions remain unfilled but the Youngstown-based foundation was able to hire Josh Medore as its community relations and engagement coordinator in October.

Current staff work to cover gaps, with the office manager returning from retirement to help out in a limited capacity and AmeriCorps volunteer Robin Perry signing on to support the Healthy Community Partnership for a second year.

The foundation plans to fill the three positions this year.

In addition to working harder, foundation staff spent much of the year preparing to work smarter. A software conversion – that included a new online grant portal for both applications and grant reporting – means that everyone in the grant process can easily access and complete grant information. Expanding grant application cycles to once per quarter also offered more flexibility to grant seekers.

A universal scholarship application was launched in March, allowing students to qualify and apply for multiple scholarship opportunities at the same time. Last year, 385 individual applications were submitted, with $107,700 awarded to local students.

The foundation also opened 10 new funds in 2021, including three separate funds to support the work of MyPath Mahoning Valley, as well as the Joseph E. Scarvell Youth Theatre Endowment Fund, an agency fund supporting The Youngstown Playhouse.

The year ended with a month-long Giving Tuesday matching gift promotion for the foundation’s agency funds. Fifteen funds received donations, with seven meeting the full match. Donors made 93 gifts totaling $76,049, and the Arnett Family Fund, – the underwriter for the promotion – added $47,226 matching dollars to that total.

In 2022, the foundation will work closely with Work in Progress of Cleveland to create a five-year strategic plan.

Incorporating knowledge from the Equity Footprint assessment the foundation completed in 2021, the strategic plan will include extensive community engagement and will guide the organization in using the resources it is charged with stewarding to best improve the Mahoning Valley.

Founded in 1999, the foundation has six full-time employees. It builds and distributes charitable funds based on community need.