With the economic crisis wreaking havoc on the world's financial systems, local families are struggling, and the infrastructure of nonprofit organizations that support and enrich our community is threatened. But out of this struggle comes the launch of an unprecedented collaborative funding initiative led by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) designed to address the unique challenges of these two embattled groups.
GCF was established as a community foundation in 1963 to provide support and leadership in six key areas: arts and culture, community and economic development, education, the environment, health, and human services.
With the onset of the economic downturn, the governing board and staff of GCF determined bold and swift action was needed to address the ever growing needs of the community. GCF is now shifting a significant portion of its grants to help families facing either unemployment or foreclosure to regain economic stability, while at the same time working to stabilize the operations of key nonprofit organizations. Weathering the Storm
Last December, the foundation's “Heat and Eat” campaign provided immediate relief to families in need in the form of food, rent and utility assistance. Now, GCF has announced the "Weathering the Economic Storm" Fund, reaching out to the city's other community institutions to go beyond providing just the basics.
GCF has committed an initial investment of $1 million toward the fund, which will be nearly doubled by other philanthropic organizations, whose donations total an additional $800,000.
Partner investors include:
- The Butler Foundation
- Christ Church Cathedral
- The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation
- The Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati
- The Andrew Jergens Foundation
- The Mayerson Foundation
- PNC Bank
- Procter & Gamble Fund of GCF
- William Cooper Procter Fund
- Scripps Howard Foundation
- United Way of Greater Cincinnati
- Women’s Fund of GCF
- Craig Young Family Foundation
An escalated rate of job loss throughout the region will have lasting effects on our communities. GCF's proposed immediate infusion of cash to support families who have lost jobs will address a number of destabilizing factors including: hunger prevention and food security; foreclosure and eviction protection; individual and family counseling; employment counseling, training and placement; Earned Income Tax Credit filing and public benefits enrollment; and child care.
By addressing the issue with a dedicated source of funds geared toward immediate needs as well as keeping families in homes and training unemployed workers, GCF's investment will go a long way in keeping the damage to the economy to a minimum.
The United Way of Greater Cincinnati joins GCF in this endeavor, committing $200,000 toward the initiative. United Way board chair Carrie Hayden remarked, “The partnership announced today is another way for us to provide additional support.”
It's not only cash that area organizations are providing. United Way is also making available United Way 211, a number for people to call to identify available services. Last year calls to 211 increased by 34 percent, from 71,000 in 2007 to 95,000 in 2008. Calls this year are on pace to likely exceed that number, a clear indication of increasing needs for basic services such as food and housing, assistance with utility payments, and job-related programs.
The Manuel D. & Rhoda Mayerson Foundation is also taking an innovative approach to addressing core needs during this challenging times.
Beginning as early as last year, Mayerson trustees had determined that maintaining standard funding practices would not sufficiently address the needs of the community. They encouraged the staff to determine what could be done differently and quickly.
That accelerated help came in the shape of a new home for the child advocacy group, ProKids. Thanks to a generous donor, the Foundation was sitting on a 4,500 square foot residence on Burnet Avenue. They conducted a thorough assessment of the needs of a number of growing nonprofits, and identified ProKids as a potential partner. Within a month, the two had entered into a below-market rate five-year lease.
ProKids trains volunteers to be court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) for children who are in foster care as a result of abuse or neglect. These volunteers represent the organization's children in making sure their legal, education and personal needs are met. The new home for the organization sits conveniently halfway between Children's Hospital in Uptown and the County Courthouse Downtown. After several physical upgrades to the space, ProKids is expected to move into the new building in early April.Nonprofit Assistance
In a forward-thinking move, GCF also determined that the stabilization of nonprofits which contribute significantly to our region’s quality of life is especially important during this time. Deep declines in charitable contributions and earned revenue have severely affected cash flow for a number of these nonprofits. By focusing direct aid to a list of key organizations in the region that make the greatest impact in their respective arenas, GCF and its partners hope to bridge the short-term funding gaps in order maintain the important services they provide to the community. "Should these organizations go under, especially now, the impact would be even worse on the community," says Elizabeth Bower Reiter, GCF's vice president for communications and marketing.
The success of the Weathering the Economic Storm initiative requires the entire community's support and is open to public participation.
Kathryn E. Merchant, President and CEO of GCF, encourages any individual who would like to contribute to the intiative to visit their Web site to learn more.
“We urge everyone who has the capacity to give of your time, talent or treasure to use your resources to help our region weather this economic storm,” says Merchant.
To learn more or donate to GCF’s Weathering the Economic Storm Fund please visit www.greatercincinnatifdn.org
Storm, by Scott Beseler