Ohio-Pa. Community Foundation Awards $50M Over 35 Years

SHARON, Pa. — For the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, finding donors to establish funds has rarely been difficult. The first fund, the O’Brien Children Memorial Fund, was set up by donors in Mercer County to help a family in Brookfield, Ohio.

In the 35 years since the $50,000 fund was created, giving has only increased. Today the foundation, based here, oversees some 700 funds with $80 million in assets.

“The majority of the people in the counties we serve understand that for the communities to prosper, they have to give something back,” says Nancy Jastatt-Juergens, chief operating officer. “There’s an openness about charitable giving and leaving behind endowments.”

Growth of the foundation has been steady since it split off and became an independent organization, Jastatt-Juergens says, but it started taking off about five years ago, its assets doubling since then. Earlier this year, the foundation hit one of its most significant milestones by having distributed $50 million over the course of its history.

“Thus far in 2016, we’ve already granted $3.4 million to the region, which is fairly remarkable,” says its executive director, Kyle English. “If you compound that annually, it builds up pretty quickly.”

English attributes much of that success to the foundation’s structure. Over the past 35 years, six affiliate foundations have been established in the three-county region the foundation serves – three in Mercer County, one in Lawrence County, Pa., and two in Trumbull County – each focusing on the needs of the community it serves.

“We believe that nobody knows a community better than the people who live and work in it on a daily basis,” he says. “The people will know how to get monies into the communities, not only on an efficient basis, but also to where it will have the most impact.”

The affiliate funds are the Trumbull County Community Foundation, the Northern Trumbull County Community Foundation, the Shenango Valley Foundation, the Grove City Foundation, the Northern Mercer County Community Foundation and the Lawrence Community Foundation.

The funds are set up with the local organizations while the Community Foundation provides logistical support. Most often, that comes through redirecting grant applications, connecting new donors to the affiliate organizations and educating existing donors on the needs the foundation sees.

“The affiliates want to serve as many organizations as they can,” English says. “What it comes down to is submitting the grant requests to the affiliations and letting them do the work as far as making sure the request makes it to the people who can help.”

Of the 700 funds, most are donor-advised, Jastatt-Juergens says, and often have a narrow focus.

While funds have been established broad in scope – English notes that a few were set up simply to benefit children in the Shenango Valley – far more were created to benefit churches, libraries and entities such as the Salvation Army or Buhl Park.

“They’re legacy gifts that give to the charities they love most,” she says.

Most often, English adds, a donor chooses an organization based on positive personal experiences. He offers this example: Someone whose parent relied on the Meals on Wheels program sets up a fund for the food delivery service after that parent dies, ensuring that Meals on Wheels continues to serve others who need it.

“A lot of times it comes down to experiences they had. They want to ensure that other people have the same thing they did,” he says. “More often than not, it just comes down to people who want to give back.”

Five years ago, the Community Foundation received its largest single bequest from David Baughman to establish the Emerson A., Agnes F. and David E. Baughman Community Foundation. The foundation makes annual gifts to the First Presbyterian Church of Greenville and the Greenville Public Library, as well as funding scholarships to students from the Greenville area who attend Thiel College. It also provides grants to help children and promote recreation. “You should just want to do it,” Baughman was quoted as saying when he established the foundation.

For English, who came on as executive director in November, the gift Baughman left stands out as an example of the importance of funds administered by the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.

“He picked those because they’re all the places he gave to when he was alive. He wanted to make sure they didn’t suffer after his death. They can now count on his support forever,” he says.

Looking forward, Jastatt-Juergens foresees that kind of community support continuing. The number of funds is increasing “nearly every day,” she says, enabling the foundation to continue as a pillar of philanthropy in the Shenango Valley and Trumbull County.

“For many organizations in these communities, the Community Foundation has been a rock that’s helped them through tough times and helped them achieve what they need to do,” she says. “Our future is strong and our future is continuing to be that rock for decades.”

Pictured: The largest bequest made to the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio is memorialized in the office of Executive Director Kyle English. In 2011, David Baughman established a fund supporting several organizations in his hometown of Greenville, Pa., including Thiel College, which thanked him in a gameday program.

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