A commitment to working with the community: Our strategic direction

Three panelists sit onstage in chairs
(L to R): John Harper, Managing Director, FSG; Constance Hill-Johnson, Vice Chair, Cleveland Foundation Board of Directors; and Lillian Kuri, Cleveland Foundation Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer discuss the new strategic direction onstage at the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Presented by KeyBank.

If you tuned in for the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Week Presented by KeyBank, you likely heard the news that the Cleveland Foundation has been developing a new strategic direction that will guide our work over the next decade. Well before the pandemic, conversations had started around how we could work more closely with partners across the community to address the persistent, deep-rooted issues that continue to impact the quality of life for residents in Greater Cleveland and the wellbeing of our community as a whole.   

We want to hear from you

We all have a role in creating the future we want to see in Greater Cleveland. We are confident that our community has the answers to solve our greatest challenges – it’s a matter of connecting good ideas with the resources needed to act on them. We are committed to working together with people and organizations across our community to understand the nuances, listen to those with lived experience, and act together on shared goals. As we begin this work, we want to hear from you. We invite you to take this brief survey to share your thoughts on the Cleveland Foundation’s work moving forward.


Why now?

For more than a century, we have worked with individuals, families and organizations with a shared goal to enhance the quality of life for Greater Cleveland residents. Since the Cleveland Foundation was established, our community has changed in many ways, but persistent challenges remain – challenges like systemic racism, generational poverty, and growing distrust of institutions and information sources.     

The experiences of a global pandemic and a national reckoning on systemic racism have only underscored the ways that our own wellbeing depends on the people around us and the communities we live in. As the foundation prepares to move its headquarters into Cleveland’s MidTown neighborhood, we are thinking about how we can build deeper relationships in the community and make our work more accessible and transparent to donors, nonprofit organizations, community partners and residents. It will take all of us working together to address our community’s most complex challenges.

A “both/and” approach: Continuing to meet urgent needs while addressing root causes

As we continue to support organizations and efforts in Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties across different fields –arts and culture; economic and workforce development; education; the environment; leadership development; neighborhoods; youth, health and human services and more – we will also look for ways to address systemic issues across all areas of our funding and work moving forward.

Even as we consider long-term issues and their root causes, we realize there are urgent needs in our community that demand a fast response. We will continue to make grants that address immediate needs in Greater Cleveland while we also think about ways to reduce those needs in the future.

What does this mean for our grantmaking? A continued commitment to serving our entire community

This new strategic direction is about more than just our grantmaking – it’s an enterprise-wide strategy that seeks to coordinate our goals and impact in every facet of our work – the way we communicate, the people we hire, the investments we make, and more. As Greater Cleveland’s community foundation, we remain committed to addressing the needs of people across Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties of all races, religions, identities and backgrounds. We are identifying ways to increase available resources across our three-county footprint, and our community can expect our continued service, collaboration and support across sectors and issue areas.

Our three strategic impact areas

After months of deep listening in the community, and through partnership between the foundation’s board and staff, we have aligned on three strategic impact areas to guide our work. Now, we want to connect with people across Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties to explore how we can work together to achieve these impacts:

Fostering inclusive economic prosperity

How might we help every person in our community:

  • Access the support and resources needed to put a great idea into action?
  • Be able to meet their basic needs and also have enough to plan ahead or give back?
  • Grow the collective wealth and productivity of Greater Cleveland in a way that protects the wellbeing of people and the environment?

Creating pathways to opportunity

How might we help every person in our community:

  • Discover their interests and talents and make the most of them?
  • Have the supports and resources they need to succeed in school and the workforce?
  • Care for their health and wellbeing – physical, mental and emotional?

Building and sharing power

How might we help every person in our community:

  • Feel seen, heard, and a sense of belonging?
  • Have sources of trusted information to navigate their daily lives and feel connected to their community?
  • See themselves represented and reflected in the leadership of their community and have a say in decisions that affect them?

Watch the Strategic Direction Panel Conversation from the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Presented by KeyBank: It Starts With Community via the video above.


What could this look like? We talked to experts who are already doing the work    

During our annual meeting week, we built on the community listening that already occurred by hosting three lunchtime panel conversations featuring leaders in our community who have been working in these areas for many years. Stay tuned as we share more details from those conversations here on our blog in the coming weeks.