This is the fourth in a series of blogs where we will be sharing details about the Cleveland Foundation’s new strategic direction unveiled during the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Week Presented by KeyBank.
As we continue to refine and develop this strategic direction, 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.
On Aug. 24, nearly 900 people across Greater Cleveland tuned in to the 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Presented by KeyBank. A cornerstone of our annual meeting each year is the State of the Community Address delivered by Cleveland Foundation President & CEO Ronn Richard. This year, as our community continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching effects, Richard focused his address on the ways that Greater Clevelanders have demonstrated partnership, generosity and passion in the face of historic challenges.
A frontline response
Richard acknowledged the many people and organizations across Greater Cleveland who demonstrated solidarity and ingenuity to help others in a time of great need. “Cleveland has certainly shown its ability to come together to face a challenge,” said Richard. “In the midst of a global pandemic, and even at the height of the stay-at-home orders, our community never stopped. We just found new ways to do what we had to do.” He acknowledged educators and school administrators, artists and creators, doctors and healthcare workers as well as community leaders and residents who worked tirelessly and creatively to serve their neighbors in different ways. He also recognized the generosity of Cleveland Foundation donors, who stepped up to support the work of nonprofit organizations across Greater Cleveland. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the Cleveland Foundation was able to increase our annual grantmaking in 2020 by more than 15% compared to 2019.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, and even at the height of the stay-at-home orders, our community never stopped. We just found new ways to do what we had to do.” – Ronn Richard, President & CEO, Cleveland Foundation
An imperative to address systemic inequities
Richard also spoke about the deep inequities and injustices illuminated by the pandemic and the ongoing national reckoning with systemic racism. “While a pandemic of this scale was new for all of us, in many ways it only amplified the challenges and conditions that far too many people experience on a daily basis, including food and financial insecurity, chronic health conditions, and the toxic effects of systemic and individualized racism and discrimination,” said Richard. He noted the imperative to address the root causes of these inequities as we think about our region’s recovery from the pandemic, referencing the three impact areas identified in the Cleveland Foundation’s new strategic direction – fostering inclusive economic prosperity, creating pathways to opportunity, and building and sharing power – as a framework to realize structural change.
An exciting new chapter for the Cleveland Foundation
Speaking from the stage of The Agora Theatre and Ballroom, just a few blocks from the site of the Cleveland Foundation’s future home at the corner of E. 66th Street and Euclid Avenue, Richard spoke about this exciting next chapter for the world’s first community foundation. “This move will usher in a new era for the Cleveland Foundation and a new way of working with the community,” said Richard. Previewing some of the accessible community spaces that feature prominently in the building’s design, Richard told the audience that “we want you to feel that this is a place where you are welcome, where you can be inspired to partner with others, and where you can see your future possibilities and the possibilities for Greater Cleveland.” He emphasized that the foundation’s move represents more than a change in physical space – in alignment with the foundation’s new strategic direction, it reflects a shift in paradigm from “doing for the community” to “working with the community.”
“As we look to the future and what we want to create for the next generation, it is your partnership, generosity and passion that will make it possible.” – Ronn Richard
A message of hope for the future
Reflecting on a challenging year, Richard shared his hope and optimism for Greater Cleveland’s future. “I think about the ways that we moved mountains together over the past year through partnership and shared learning,” said Richard. “I think about the generous spirit of people across our community who selflessly gave resources and energy to help others. And I think about the passionate young people who aren’t waiting for change – they are building movements to make it happen.” He closed his remarks by telling the audience, “As we look to the future and what we want to create for the next generation, it is your partnership, generosity and passion that will make it possible.”
In case you missed it, you can watch a recording of the 2021 State of the Community Address here:
The entire 2021 Cleveland Foundation Annual Meeting Presented by KeyBank is available to watch on our YouTube channel here.