Historic contributions to Say Yes Cleveland scholarships show commitment to Cleveland’s children & future

Release Date: 10.14.2019

Say Yes Cleveland is thrilled to announce its scholarship fundraising committee has secured nearly $92 million in contributions and pledges to date, representing 74 percent of the funds needed to provide tuition scholarships to eligible students for the next quarter-century. Fundraising efforts have continued to build on the significant contributions and pledges secured before the launch of Say Yes Cleveland in January and Say Yes Cleveland is on track to meet its fundraising goal of $125 million within the next several years.

Since Say Yes Cleveland was launched in January, the new organization has moved quickly to award scholarships to Cleveland Metropolitan School District graduates and build out services for students in the first cohort of Say Yes schools.

“Say Yes Cleveland is already making a real difference for students and families,” said Diane Downing, Say Yes Cleveland’s executive director. “Our team and our partners have worked tirelessly for months so we would be ready to provide postsecondary tuition scholarships to eligible graduates from the class of 2019. Hundreds of those students are starting their freshman year now with Say Yes Cleveland scholarships. At the same time, we’re launching our support services at the first 16 CMSD schools, with family support specialists in each school and services rolling out later this fall.”

Say Yes Cleveland’s fundraising success thus far is the result of an unprecedented commitment from partners from different sectors to work together and pledge their resources to the future of Cleveland’s children. The promise of Say Yes Cleveland to the city and its residents is evident in the historic contributions many have made to the scholarship fund, several of which are the largest single contributions ever made by these organizations and individuals.

The Cleveland Foundation, the world’s first community foundation, has contributed $40 million to the Say Yes Cleveland scholarship fund. This contribution, one of the largest discretionary grants ever made by a community foundation, is also a record-breaking milestone for the Cleveland Foundation. It represents four times the amount of the previous largest single grant ($10 million) in the foundation’s history and builds on more than a century of working with community partners to ensure Cleveland’s children have equitable access to quality schools and the support services they need to thrive.

“Say Yes to Education is an unprecedented investment in the potential of our youngest residents,” said Ronn Richard, President and CEO, Cleveland Foundation. “This multi-generational undertaking has inspired many in the community, including our foundation, to make historic contributions to this game-changing effort because we believe in the transformative power of a quality education. For the next 25 years, Cleveland students will have the chance to realize their greatest dreams, shattering barriers that stand in their way to achieving personal success while also propelling our community to extraordinary heights. The people of Cleveland are our greatest asset. We encourage others to join us in saying ‘yes’ to our students because our shared future depends on the commitments we make today.”

The KeyBank Foundation contributed $10 million to the Say Yes Cleveland scholarship fund. “We no longer have to imagine Cleveland’s future, because the future is close at hand,” said Beth Mooney, KeyCorp Chair and CEO. “Thanks to ‘Say Yes,’ thousands of students will be well-prepared to lead Cleveland for years to come. We’re heartened to see our community continue to support ‘Say Yes’ so that our young people can achieve their dreams, pursue their passions and help our hometown thrive.”

The George Gund Foundation awarded a $10 million grant, with additional gifts of $5 million from Gund family members who wanted to ensure the program would be in place for the CMSD graduating class of 2019. Geoffrey and Sarah Gund made a personal commitment of $4 million to Say Yes Cleveland, and Gordon and Llura Gund pledged $1 million.

“It is our hope that our gifts to Say Yes Cleveland will help to catalyze the remaining fundraising and enable the full $125 million campaign to achieve success,” noted Geoffrey Gund, president of The George Gund Foundation. “We feel strongly that the young people in the Cleveland schools both deserve and need to have the opportunity to go to college or other postsecondary schooling. We believe Say Yes Cleveland, a vital component of Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools, which we have long supported, is their best chance.”

Say Yes Cleveland is proud to release for the first time the amounts of many of the contributions and pledges made to the scholarship fund:


Cleveland Foundation

KeyBank Foundation

The George Gund Foundation


Anonymous (3)

Cleveland Clinic


Geoffrey and Sarah Gund

Gordon and Llura Gund

Haslam 3 Foundation

James and Angela Hambrick Foundation

The Lubrizol Foundation

Mayor Frank Jackson, City of Cleveland, and Cleveland City Council

The McHale Family Foundation

Medical Mutual

Third Federal Foundation

The Thomas H. White Foundation, a KeyBank Trust

Sandstorm – William E. Conway and Family, The Covia Foundation, The Daryl and Jenniffer Deckard Family, The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation


The Dolan Family

Beth Mooney

The Oatey Foundation



Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Metropolitan School District

College Now Greater Cleveland


The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation

Albert and Audrey Ratner


College Club of Cleveland Foundation

The Treu-Mart Fund, a Supporting Organization of the Cleveland Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland


In Memory of Sidney and Vera Arlen

Inajo and John Chappell

Margot Copeland and Tony Thomas

Lee Friedman and Joseph Gogol

Dawn and Eric Gordon

Ann Mullin and Doug Vanneste

Beth and Clay Rankin

Charles and Martha Rini

David Abbott and Jan Roller

Helen Williams and Jay Westbrook

Significant leadership contributions or pledges have also been received from:

Bank of America

Cleveland Board of Education Members

Forest City Realty Trust

Jeffrey Grover and Family

Minute Men/The Lucarelli Family

Amy and Marc Morgenstern

OMNOVA Solutions Foundation


Parker-Hannifin Foundation

The Sherwin-Williams Company

Ronn and Bess Richard

Kaye and Phil Ridolfi

John J. and Frances E. Dwyer Fund – In Honor of Anne Bingham

Donations can be made to the Say Yes Cleveland Scholarship Fund at SayYesCleveland.org/donate.