Why I Give: A Prescription for Philanthropy with Ed Rivalsky

Ed Rivalsky stands outside in Cleveland Public Square with buildings in the background
Downtown resident Ed Rivalsky says loyalty was a primary value in his corporate life, and it’s part of why he’s keeping his philanthropy in Northeast Ohio.

Why do so many people choose to give through the Cleveland Foundation? The reasons and interests are as unique as the story of the donor. Northeast Ohioan Ed Rivalsky established a customized giving strategy with the Cleveland Foundation a few years after the sale of his home IV infusion pharmacy and home health agency network to a subsidiary of Walgreens. We asked the pharmacist, entrepreneur and former executive a few questions about his next chapter in life: philanthropy. (This interview was originally published in our winter 2019 issue of Gift of Giving magazine.)

Tell us about the company you started in 1988, Clinical Specialties Inc.

Clinical Specialties was founded on the premise of providing home infusion therapy services for patients as an alternative to an extended hospital stay. We partnered with hospitals to assist patients with various financial and health insurance challenges and complex care needs after discharge. Then we expanded services to offer payers a network of home health agencies, and this combination of desirable offerings allowed CSI to expand to six states.

After 27 years leading this business, what prompted you to sell?

The sale was influenced by the market, the potential changes coming down the road in healthcare, and my own limitations. I had an illness in 2010 that was a real awakening. I always held a high level of responsibility to our patients, customers, employees and the region. As a result, the decision to exit was far from easy.

Why did you choose the Cleveland Foundation as a philanthropic partner?

The scope and breadth were appealing, and there were many avenues for participation. I was also very impressed with the investment options. The staff works as an extension of my advisory team, so developing a plan that was flexible and resonated with my values was remarkably easy.

What types of causes do you feel strongly about?

My long-term goals are born out of where I think real value can be delivered at the community level. My pillars are basic human services, education, healthcare and other community initiatives. I want to give in Cleveland, where I ran my business, and Youngstown, because I grew up there.

How do you hope to involve your children in philanthropy?

There’s an estate plan that will help fund existing donor advised funds for my children. I’m bringing them in, reinforcing that it’s their responsibility to be philanthropic. Their causes will be different because of their exposures in life, and they may not always live in Cleveland, but one of my wishes is that at least half of their grants stay in Cleveland.

Part of your charitable investment includes an unrestricted designation to the Cleveland Foundation. Why did you choose that strategy?

I’m aware that the world evolves, and I didn’t want to limit the opportunities for impact based only on what was true today. The Cleveland Foundation has a winning formula, and it’s constantly being refined and adjusted.

What new venture are you working on now?

I’m working on a project that merges my experience as a patient with my passion as an entrepreneur. It’s a portal to help patients with chronic disease states learn about their conditions and better self-manage.