Mercy Works volunteers loading boxes for COVID relief

Connecting & Responding to Local Needs

A century ago, Cleveland banker Frederick Goff had a vision: pool the charitable resources of his community’s philanthropists into a single permanent endowment for the betterment of the city. That vision led to the formation of the Cleveland Foundation and a movement that has transformed philanthropy in the United States and across the world.

Today more than 800 U.S. community foundations collectively grant more than $6.5 billion each year in their respective regions. The Central New York Community Foundation, established in 1927, has invested more than $230 million in community improvement projects that strengthen our local nonprofits and address the most critical issues of our times.

The gifts we receive come from those who want to give back to Central New York in some way— either during their lifetimes or as a legacy that carries on after they are gone. We then turn those dollars into community change — by supporting and mobilizing nonprofit efforts around the region’s most critical needs.

Our impact is most notable when you hear how residents’ lives have been changed thanks to the generosity of our fundholders: affordable rental apartments have been made lead-safe and families of children with elevated blood lead levels have been relocated for their safety; visitors to food pantries are finding fresh, healthy produce to choose from; low income residents are being connected to job opportunities in high-need industries; young children are receiving a steady stream of new books to read with their families; high-achieving students are going to college with the help of scholarships, and much more!

The local value of a community foundation is never more evident than when a community faces urgent, unexpected adversity. When a crisis like the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hits, our goal is not to do less because of uncertainty, but to do more because our neighbors need us. Our resources and community knowledge allow us to act quickly during times like these, raising and deploying funds to fill gaps or justify ideas, and supporting a scaled-up response from the government.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in the face of a pandemic that posed an unprecedented threat, more than 400 community foundations in every U.S. state immediately set up COVID-19 response funds. In the early stages of the pandemic, we committed initial funding and management services to create a series of COVID-19 support funds across our region in partnership with local government and regional funders. These new coalitions resulted in stronger collaborations, streamlined resource deployment and, most importantly, responsive grants to nonprofits working with communities that were disproportionately impacted by economic consequences of the pandemic. Altogether, $2.3 million was raised and distributed in response grants to meet basic needs.

Community isn’t just part of our name. It’s central to who we are and what we do. We invest millions each year in improving Central New York, while also ensuring that our donors will leave a legacy that will make a difference for generations to come. As community connectors, we link donors with the nonprofits that can help them transform lives. And as philanthropic first responders, we step up to the call when our region needs us.

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