A world of giving

Last month, the United Way kicked off its annual campaign with a pancake breakfast on Public Square, where it announced this year’s goal of $50 million. That’s an increase of approximately $5.6 million over what it raised last year, when it came up just a hair short of its target amount in a tight economy for philanthropy.

And in August, I attended a private breakfast with Jack Sherwin, chairman of the board of The Cleveland Foundation, where the topic of conversation was the decrease in available funds from foundations, coupled with an uptick in requests from nonprofits.

Also recently, I’ve asked local CEOs and presidents whether their charitable giving patterns mirror economic conditions and lower revenue within their businesses.

What do these three seemingly unrelated issues have in common? All reflect the state of community giving in Northeast Ohio, where nonprofit organizations are in greater need of dollars than ever, corporate and foundation requests are near an all-time high and funders have less to give.

In Smart Business‘ December issue, we’ll feature our annual Pillar Award for Community Service, sponsored by Medical Mutual, and share stories of companies and executives that understand the importance of corporate philanthropy. As part of the cover package, we’ll present findings from the second annual State of Community Relations Survey, conducted in partnership with BrownFlynn Communications.

Last year, we polled businesses to learn how they view community relations, and their reasons for giving back. We found that some receive 300-plus requests each year for donations. Many have developed employee-driven volunteerism programs. And, in a down economy, we discovered business owners were just beginning to set stricter criteria regarding the organizations to which they give.

Once again, we’re asking businesses to participate in the survey. It is available online at www.brownflynn.com/survey/crs03.htm and should take less than five minutes to complete.

We’re interested in whether your company has a corporate giving strategy and if it is aligned with your business strategy; how your company determines which organizations it gives to or volunteers staff for; and in understanding who drives your volunteer programs.

As part of Smart Business‘ commitment to giving back to the community, we’ll donate $1 to The Pillar Fund for every survey returned. BrownFlynn will match that donation.

It’s all part of making Northeast Ohio a better place to live. We look forward to your participation.