Eastern Ohioans have always been generous. Disaster or illness strikes, we give generously of our time and resources. But the concept of organized philanthropy strikes many residents in this part of the state as foreign . . . something that the Rockefellers or Bill Gates do . . . but not us!!
Historically, southeastern Ohio which includes 26 of the 32 Ohio Appalachian counties has been underrepresented in charitable assets. This region represents 29.5 percent of the state’s counties, 10.5 percent of the state’s population, but only 2.5 percent of the charitable assets and 2.7 percent of giving in the state. For illustration, Ohio’s largest community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, had approximately 4.8 times the assets and made about 2.6 times the gifts of all 132 foundations in southeast Ohio combined.
Oil and gas development in the region may be a catalyst for the growth of organized giving in this part of the state where shale development is occurring. New community foundation funds have been established in Harrison and Monroe Counties, and the Guernsey County family of funds all have been consolidated under the umbrella of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. In Noble County, a local community fund, under the Marietta Community Foundation umbrella, has distributed nearly $15,000 in grants to local non-profits and $7,000 in scholarships since its creation in 2005.
These “baby-steps” in some of Ohio’s smallest counties are long overdue and represent a positive sign in the region. The creation and maintenance of these local funds provide a seed from which long term growth in charitable giving may result. Hopefully some small portion of the region’s new found oil and gas wealth will make its way into these funds to assure that the current gas wealth will help the region thrive for years to come.
(Submitted by Mike Lloyd, Assistant Professor and County Extension Educator, Noble County & Buckeye Hills EERA)