The history of The George Gund Foundation reflects a deep commitment to place, to the Greater Cleveland community that was the home of its founder and that remains the Foundation’s home. The Foundation’s philanthropic stewardship of this region derives not just from our history, but also from our belief that Cleveland can continue to develop original responses to urban issues and from our hope that collaborations across boundaries can create a crucible of innovation in all fields of endeavor. Moreover, the urban emphasis of our work stems from a belief that thriving cities are one of the nation’s best hopes for addressing our essential problems. This focus is especially vital in an era of diminished government involvement in urban issues, intensifying globalization and heightened awareness of the central role of regions.
The Foundation’s guidelines reflect our long-standing interests in the arts, economic development and community revitalization, education, environment and human services because these areas embrace most of the major issues that any community must address. While we continue to organize much of our work within these program areas, there is increasing awareness that many issues and, therefore, many grant proposals do not fit neatly into one program category. Indeed, the work of a growing number of nonprofit organizations brings together aspects of several of our core interests, and, as a result, we are becoming ever more interdisciplinary in our approach.
This is particularly evident with initiatives that aim to make Cleveland, and urban areas generally, more globally competitive, livable, sustainable and just. It is in this domain that the greatest need and maximum opportunity converge with the Foundation’s primary interests, expertise and ongoing stewardship. We especially seek to support innovative ideas being pursued by creative and entrepreneurial organizations.
Our primarily urban focus motivates us to devote attention and resources to the illumination of policies that shape the issues we care about. National, state and local policymaking affects all of the Foundation’s work and the work of the organizations we fund. Consequently, we feel a special obligation to support the nonpartisan voice of nonprofit advocacy in policy deliberations that directly relate to our program interests.
Global climate change is an urgent issue that cuts across all of the Foundation’s programs. Every organization and individual can help to address this problem. The Foundation takes seriously our own responsibility and we want to hear from grant applicants what they are doing or considering to reduce or to eliminate their organizational impact on climate change. Our website includes links to helpful resources, and Foundation staff will assist grant seekers — both new and those of long standing — in all of our program areas with questions they may have.
The Foundation values and supports the role the arts play in making Cleveland and its region a more desirable place to live, fostering the growth of a creative workforce, catalyzing development in our neighborhoods and serving as a bridge between various segments of the community. The Foundation encourages a lively, diverse arts community in Greater Cleveland by funding local projects that emphasize artistic quality, innovative programming, reaching new audiences and organizational development. We also try to balance support for Cleveland’s long-standing institutions with funding for newer organizations that promise to reach different audiences and cultures and to expand the city’s artistic offerings. Arts education is a priority, with a focus on curriculum-related partnerships between arts organizations and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Economic Development and Community Revitalization
Sustaining uniquely urban assets such as vibrant neighborhoods and a thriving downtown is a key part of a successful regional strategy to promote economic growth. The Foundation devotes considerable attention to these dynamics, in particular by supporting collaborative efforts that leverage resources. As a result, the highest priority is given to initiatives that bolster the impact of Foundation-supported intermediary organizations working to improve the competitiveness of Cleveland’s neighborhoods and its metropolitan region. Examples of such initiatives include quality urban planning and design, improvements to urban parks and public spaces, promotion of equal opportunity and diversity in housing and the workplace and proposals to redevelop Cleveland’s downtown, neighborhoods and first-ring suburbs.
Education is fundamental to success, and if Cleveland is to produce, attract and retain talent and be the thriving center of a robust regional economy, expectations about education must rise exponentially. Consequently, our Foundation’s focus is on the transformation of public education in Cleveland in order to equip children from early childhood onward with the skills they ultimately will need to meet the demands of college, the 21st-century workplace and international standards. Our primary area of interest is the creation and support of new, innovative, excellent schools in Cleveland that drive autonomy and accountability to the school level and create different teaching and learning conditions to ensure student success. We support statewide policy and advocacy efforts in furtherance of this work, particularly as it relates to the importance of high-quality teachers and principals in every classroom and school. We also maintain a desire to support disadvantaged students through key transitions, especially to higher education.
Human well-being is inextricably linked to the quality of the environment, and urban areas bring this fact into sharp focus as historic disregard for the environment and modern development pressures create great challenges. The Foundation responds to these challenges by making grants to organizations that address environmental issues in Northeast Ohio. In addition, we support efforts to restore and preserve the Lake Erie ecosystem. Within the broad range of environmental issues, the Foundation focuses on promoting alternatives to urban sprawl, decreasing energy consumption and waste, conserving ecosystems and biodiversity, reducing environmental health hazards, increasing public awareness of environmental issues and building the skills of nonprofit environmental leaders.
Heightened focus on developing a more globally competitive city and region demands recognition that people are at the heart of this effort and that all segments of society can make constructive contributions. To maximize that contribution, direct attention must be paid to the needs of those most at risk of being left out of social and economic transformation. Building human capital begins at birth and the Foundation pays special attention to the needs of Greater Cleveland’s disadvantaged children through grants to support early childhood care and education, abuse prevention and improved foster care and adoption systems. In addition, the Foundation provides some support for the local “safety net” of food, clothing, shelter and access to health care. A closely related set of interests is reflected in the Foundation’s desire to help vulnerable populations achieve access to health insurance, the legal system, community support following release from prison and safe and affordable reproductive health services.
Retinal Degenerative Diseases
The George Gund Foundation makes an annual commitment to the Foundation Fighting Blindness for research on the causes, nature and prevention of inherited retinal degenerative diseases.
The Foundation supports organizations that strengthen the infrastructure of the nonprofit and philanthropic communities through philanthropic services grants.
Program Related Investments
George Gund Foundation makes program-related investments (PRIs) in nonprofit ventures that fit particularly well with the Foundation’s grantmaking objectives. PRIs can take the form of loans, equity investments, linked deposits and loan guarantees. Unlike grants, PRIs are expected to be repaid.
The Foundation’s first PRI was made in 1984 when $333,000 was loaned to the Famicos Foundation for construction of the Lexington Village Project, a housing development in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland. Since then, 35 separate PRIs have occurred. Currently, the Foundation has approximately $6.4 million actively invested in 8 transactions.
PRIs are generally made only to nonprofit organizations with a strong track record of performance using Foundation grants. Given expectation for repayment, the application process for a PRI is considerably more detailed than for a grant. Conversations on a possible program-related investment should begin with the program officer the organization normally deals with regarding grants.
Capital Grants Policy: Green Buildings
The George Gund Foundation limits capital grants for construction or renovation to projects that seek U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Capital grants are made only to nonprofit organizations in Greater Cleveland that would otherwise qualify for grants based on the Foundation’s guidelines and priorities. Projects requesting capital funding also must seek certification under the USGBC’s LEED standards. Potential grantees are encouraged to contact the appropriate program officer before submitting a capital request to see if their project qualifies.
The Foundation’s goal in requiring organizations that apply for capital grants to adopt green building principles is to encourage and support the development of green buildings in Greater Cleveland for their environmental, health and economic benefits. New construction projects must seek LEED Silver certification or higher. Renovation projects must seek designation as LEED Certified or higher.
Applications for capital grants should submit:
- Letter signed by the board chair or CEO confirming registration of the project with USGBC’s LEED program and stating the organization’s commitment to adopt green building principles and pursue the appropriate level LEED certification.
- A preliminary LEED checklist showing potential points towards certification.
- Designation of a “green champion” for the project—a person who has the appropriate authority within the organization to shepherd the integrated design process from project conception to completion. This staff person or volunteer is the institutional champion for designing a green building and is involved in all aspects of project planning.
To discuss a capital grant, please contact John Mitterholzer.
$25,170,993 / 221 Grants