Exceptional leadership, a clear vision, core values and accountability. According to the team of former executives-turned-philanthropists behind the M.F. Cachat Charitable Foundation Fund, many of the same guiding principles that drive success in business can also inform impactful giving.
Mike Cachat, Bill Head, Ed Sherwood, Bruce Jarosz, John Mastrantoni and Alison Azar Beckmeyer spent years working together at the Lakewood, Ohio-based M.F. Cachat Company. Now that they’ve all retired or moved on to second-act careers, they continue to collaborate through a Donor-Advised Fund they established at the Cleveland Foundation to help break the cycle of poverty in Greater Cleveland.
A team effort
“I couldn’t have asked for better partners or better friends,” company founder Mike Cachat said of the team, reflecting on their time together as colleagues at M.F. Cachat, the specialty chemical distribution company he founded in 1977.
When John Mastrantoni joined the company as a sales rep in 1984, M.F. Cachat was doing about $2 million in sales. Founder Cachat led the organization as president, with Bill Head serving as vice president and Bruce Jarosz as controller. Ed Sherwood headed up sales, with Mastrantoni and Alison Azar Beckmeyer rounding out that team. By 2002, when Mastrantoni, Jarosz and Sherwood bought the company from the original partners, sales had ballooned to more than $300 million.
Much of the original team had moved on by the time Netherlands-based chemical distributor IMCD bought the company in 2015, but then-President Mastrantoni saw an opportunity to continue to work together to advance the company’s core values through charitable giving.
“Early in my career, I was lucky to be surrounded by people who were not just professionally astute, but were also just good people,” Mastrantoni said. “I realized at a young age that being successful was not just defined by money, but by the balance of being successful personally and professionally.”
The team was looking for a giving vehicle that would allow them to stay active in their grantmaking decisions. They turned to the Cleveland Foundation in 2016 to help set up a Donor Advised Fund, develop their mission and identify priority areas of giving. “A lot of places can manage funds, but the Cleveland Foundation encouraged us to think about what kind of services we wanted to provide the community,” Mastrantoni said.
Paying it forward
Establishing the fund seemed like a natural extension of the spirit of generosity that was baked into M.F. Cachat’s corporate culture, according to Bruce Jarosz. “As we concluded our business careers, we recognized that Northeast Ohio was very kind to us as individuals and to the company,” he said. “We now had an opportunity to do something good for the greater community.”
The team focuses their giving on education, community development and providing for basic needs, with an emphasis on organizations that serve Greater Cleveland’s young people.
“There is a lot of need out there and a lot of opportunities to give,” Head said. “The hardest thing we have to do is try to focus, and we kept coming back to youth and breaking the cycle of poverty.”
The team has been working with a small cohort of nonprofits serving youth in Northeast Ohio for several years, and they’ve found many of the same lessons they learned in the business world help inform their approach to giving.
“At M.F. Cachat, we were always blessed with exceptional leadership. We had a clear vision and a set of core values, and we held each other accountable,” Jarosz said. “We want to see the same things in the organizations we support: a strong leader, a mission with measurable things they can accomplish, and accountability for meeting those goals. All of that helps them become more effective in carrying out their mission.”
A shared vision helped the team drive the success of the company, and the same sense of common purpose informs their approach to philanthropy.
“It’s all about paying it forward and setting an example,” Beckmeyer said, reflecting on the team’s emphasis on using their charitable dollars to open doors and provide opportunities for others to build success.
“All of us came from pretty humble beginnings,” Mastrantoni said. “We were given opportunities, and we took them. We feel a moral responsibility to share what we’ve been given.”
Get in Touch
To apply for a grant from the Cleveland Foundation, please visit our Grants Gateway. For more information on Donor-Advised Funds, please contact the Cleveland Foundation Advancement team at 887-554-5054.