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Columbus Foundation, for the Community

Written by Amelia Jeffers

Columbus Foundation has given the central Ohio community plenty of reasons to applaud the leadership and philanthropy it has helped to steward.

Beginning on March 10, in a terrific example of rapid response, the Columbus Foundation announced the establishment of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund just one day after Governor Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency for Ohio - and with fewer than 3 confirmed cases in the state at the time. Seeded with $1 million dollars contributed directly from the Foundation, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund was deployed within a week of launching and has distributed over $6.1 million dollars (as of late October) to support Franklin County nonprofit organizations as they have assisted in responding to the spread of COVID-19 in the community and experienced financial challenges in doing so.

Just three months later, on June 11, the Columbus Foundation ended a record-shattering 30 hours of fundraising with the highest-grossing Big Give to date: a whopping $32.8 million dollars, an astounding increase of 81% over the most recent Big Give event in 2017. Having created the first community foundation match day in America in 2008, the Foundation started the Big Give in 2011 to periodically give the central Ohio nonprofit community an economic boost by leveraging a bonus pool of matching funds to entice donors to support their nonprofit(s) of choice by boosting individual donations with a pro rata share of the Bonus Pool contributions. The previous four Big Give events (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) had leveraged $52.2 million for local nonprofits. Commenting on the extraordinary response from the donor community, Columbus Foundation President and CEO, Doug Kridler said, “When you think of what our community has gone through over the past several months — from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health and jobs, to the pain and suffering felt by those fighting for racial justice — it is almost unimaginable that we would have seen this level of generosity. What an outstanding community moment.

The Big Give 2020 should instill deep pride in all of us."

And on September 10, while many in our community were struggling to think far beyond the immediate needs of the city’s most vulnerable citizens, organizations, and businesses, the Columbus Foundation communicated a leadership commitment and unprecedented investments in four key, strategic areas over the next 18 months:

  • Addressing the Racial Equity Wealth Gap – Collaborating with community partners in the Forward Cities effort, One Columbus, the Columbus Urban League, the County, the City, and others, the Foundation will commit $5 million in Program Related Investments (PRIs) over the next two years, primarily to support entrepreneurs of color, and, in particular, Black-owned and led businesses.

  • Emergency Response Fund – The Foundation will expand grant dollars directed to support organizations that are battling the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and extend the timeline of support through 2021.

  • Bridging the Digital Divide – The Foundation is doubling its initial $500,000 commitment to $1 million to decrease racial inequities in access to high-speed internet and support related initiatives and projects through 2021.

  • Preservation of the Arts – In early 2021, a significant expansion of arts support will be announced to help preserve Columbus’ arts infrastructure, which has been hard hit during the pandemic.

The announcement came at the Foundation’s annual Celebration of Philanthropy event which was held virtually this year, and featured remarks from Kridler, local artist Miles Balfour, Autumn Glover (President of PACT), as well as awards honoring exceptional examples of generosity. With poignant references to the history of our city - from the earliest inhabitants of the Ohio Valley to American settlers who traversed the National Road alongside which the Columbus Foundation office sits, Kridler emphasized the need for unity in community: “None of this will be easy, or quick, so it is going to take keeping stitched together as we take on these challenges. The Columbus Foundation has a role to play in getting to that better day, and we will.… We are stepping up higher than we ever have in our history, given the times we are in.”


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