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For 80 years, The Columbus Foundation has helped individuals, families, businesses, and organizations achieve their philanthropic goals. Since our founding in 1943, generous civic-minded donors have been making gifts and creating charitable funds to strengthen and improve our community, now and for future generations.

One particular way donors have chosen to help the community in perpetuity is by establishing a Fund for Columbus.

This type of flexible and responsive fund is what’s known in the philanthropic sector as an unrestricted fund. Whereas restricted funds earmark the use of grant dollars to specific issues, programs, or organizations, unrestricted funds provide The Columbus Foundation the discretion and flexibility to award grants to highly effective nonprofits that are addressing our region’s most pressing challenges. Through a competitive grant process, our knowledgeable and experienced Community Research and Grants Management team thoroughly evaluates proposals from nonprofits to ensure charitable dollars are going toward programs that reflect the community’s needs.

“The challenges our community faces are constantly evolving, as are our greatest opportunities,” said Dan Sharpe, Vice President for Community Research and Grants Management at The Columbus Foundation. “Unrestricted funds enable The Columbus Foundation to be nimble in our response to emerging needs and ready to provide catalytic capital to organizations that are doing extraordinary work in our region.”

The Columbus Foundation currently houses more than 200 unrestricted funds with a total market value of over $254 million. Donors can use cash, stock, or other assets gifted during their lifetime or at death to establish a named unrestricted fund, and qualify for an immediate income or estate tax deduction.

One such fund at The Columbus Foundation, the Robert Bartels Fund, was established in 1983 by Robert Bartels, PhD, a marketing scholar who taught at The Ohio State University. Dr. Bartels, who passed away in 1989, cared deeply about the arts, literature, music, and other community programs. Thanks to his generosity, the Robert Bartels Fund has awarded more than $8.5 million in grants to area nonprofits—including Ballet Metropolitan, Inc., Children’s Defense Fund, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Jewish Family Services, and YWCA of Columbus, among many others. With The Columbus Foundation’s ongoing stewardship, funds like the Robert Bartels Fund will continue to make a lasting impact in the community and in the lives of our neighbors.

Grants awarded through the competitive grantmaking process that utilize unrestricted funds help organizations advance their overall mission in a variety of ways. For example, grants can help nonprofits cover vital operational expenses, such as salary and benefits so that organizations can hire and retain top talent. These grants can also support the acquisition or renovation of facilities so that an organization can more efficiently and effectively serve its clients. Or, as was the case for many nonprofits during the pandemic, unrestricted grants can help organizations be nimble and responsive when confronted with unforeseen or urgent challenges.

Karen Mozenter, CEO of Jewish Family Services. Photo by Challen Brown/The Columbus Foundation.

As Karen Mozenter, CEO of Jewish Family Services, explains, unrestricted grants are an essential resource for nonprofits, due in large part to the flexibility these grants provide. “The best investment donors can make in high-performing nonprofits like Jewish Family Services is a gift of unrestricted funding,” said Mozenter. “This type of gift recognizes our knowledge and expertise, enabling us to respond to emerging community needs in ways that are creative and forward thinking.”

As The Columbus Foundation commemorates 80 years of supporting the community through the most effective philanthropy possible, our dedicated team is ready to support the changing needs and opportunities in central Ohio. Through unrestricted funds, the legacies of generous donors will live on and continue to support organizations and programs that are making a difference in the lives of others—now and in the future.


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