ELYRIA — The Community Foundation of Lorain County, the ultimate benefactor in terms of philanthropic efforts, is trying something it has never done before in an effort to affect the community in new ways.
With President and CEO Brian Frederick winding down his tenure, the foundation is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $500,000 to endow an unrestricted fund in honor of Frederick, the Campaign for Emerging Opportunities. This campaign, which runs until Dec. 31, will allow the public to honor Frederick’s legacy with a monetary gift that will boost the foundation’s ability to award grants for the most critical needs and projects in the community, said Danielle Locke, the foundation’s gift planning officer.
Not to be mistaken as a slush fund for Frederick or one for him to indulge in pet projects, the fund will empower the foundation to do more in the community on its own while still embracing its role as the holder and administrator of the wishes of others.
“This fund will allow us to be more responsive to the needs in the community and not just the bad ones that are not so sexy to get behind for donors,” Locke said. “But this is about moving the needle on the things that are needed most in the community.”
Jim Vandemark, co-chairman of the campaign’s committee, said the public can contribute at levels they are comfortable with while still feeling like they are embracing the tenets of philanthropy. Hundreds are touched each year by the foundation.
“This is changing the conversation by saying, ‘If you trust the Community Foundation to do what is needed in this community, give to this fund,’” he said.
The foundation is moving in a new direction with new leadership. Effective Nov. 6, the foundation’s board named Cynthia Andrews, former executive director of Oberlin Community Services, to succeed Frederick.
Frederick’s tenure at the foundation started in 1998, about 18 years after its founding. He came at a time when the late Elizabeth King — part of her property was once Lakeview Park — left her estate to the philanthropic institution, adding $14 million to the foundation.
It jump-started a period of rapid growth, with the foundation’s assets growing from $56 million and 200 endowment funds to a portfolio of more than $133 million and 620 endowment funds, which makes it the 110th-largest philanthropic foundation in the country.
Locke said roughly 90 percent of those funds are restricted in some way — earmarked toward specific projects such as animal care or scholarships endowed for individual schools, communities or occupations. Few of the foundation’s assets are open to competitive, independent grant-making opportunities.
Growing unrestricted dollars gives the foundation flexibility to address needs in the community as they emerge. Years ago, no one anticipated the opioid crisis that has a strong hold on Lorain County, yet it’s a need that many want to address in an aggressive way. Homelessness, food insecurity, access to health care, workforce development and public transportation are all needs many would point to as community priorities.
“A donation to the Campaign for Emerging Opportunities is a huge gift to the community, allowing the Community Foundation to be nimble, efficient and effectual in addressing needs as they arise,” Frederick said.