June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

County nonprofits lag in charitable giving

MEDINA — Medina County is the fifth wealthiest county in the state, measured by median household income.

Yet its charitable institutions lag far behind other northeastern Ohio counties, both in number and size of assets.

Members of the 13 organizations that received grants from the Medina County Community Fund in 2012 hold a $32,500 check. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

Timothy Hagerty, executive director of the Medina County Community Fund, wants to change that.

Last year the fund, with only $700,000 in income-producing assets, could afford to give only $30,000 to help local charities and other nonprofit groups.

But Hagerty said community foundations in neighboring counties — Lorain, Cuyahoga and Summit — are able to give much more because they are worth much more: $128 million, $2 billion and $150 million respectively.

Those three counties all have larger populations than Medina. But other counties with similar and smaller populations also boast more wealthy nonprofit groups.

Medina County, with a population of about 174,000, has 12 foundations and other nonprofit corporations with annual incomes of $1 million or more, according to GuideStar, a nonprofit group that monitors the financial giving of foundations and other charities across the nation.

But Portage County, slightly smaller with about 162,000 residents, has 19 charities with incomes of $1 million or more.

Wayne County, with only about 115,000 residents, boasts 29 organizations in the $1 million and up club.

Ashland County counts 11 nonprofits on the list — one less than Medina County, which has more than double the population.

Hagerty said there is no clear-cut explanation why Medina County has comparatively few large charitable foundations. But he speculated that one reason is that Medina County has grown so fast and many of its newer residents come from neighboring counties.

“People in the northern part of the county gravitate toward Cuyahoga County; people in Wadsworth tend to gravitate toward Summit County, and people in Medina are pulled in multiple directions,” he said. “Medina has a looser identity than other counties.

“People in Medina County, I think, are extremely generous to those in need, but because they are pulled in other directions they don’t see themselves as part of the bigger picture in the county.”

Hagerty suggested another factor may be that 55 percent of the county’s workers travel outside the county to their jobs, and most of their charitable donations taken from their paychecks go toward charities in the employer’s county.

“Often employers encourage employees to give through the company’s giving plan,” Hagerty said. “Those dollars get contributed but then they stay outside the county.”

Hagerty acknowledged that getting and keeping more donations in Medina County will be a challenge.

Because it has so few assets, the Medina County Community Fund now operates as an affiliate of the Akron Community Foundation.

Hagerty’s goal is to build the fund into an independent foundation by growing its assets from $700,000 to $10 million over the next 10 years.

If the fund gets enough donations to achieve that, it would be able to give $500,000 annually and help hundreds of local organizations.

Hagerty said when someone donates to the community fund their money gets invested so it can be used year after year.

“The more that people in Medina County are aware of the fund’s existence as a credible place for them to make gifts, invest in something that has historically yielded excellent returns and trust that the distribution committee has operated with integrity, then more people will feel comfortable increasing their giving to the fund,” he said.

At the fund’s 2012 Fall into Winter event, which is held each December, 13 local groups were given a total of $32,500.

In total, the fund has given $378,000 to local nonprofits since it was founded 19 years ago.

Those receiving the money represented an array of institutions, including groups helping children with cancer, the county’s free annual arts week and feeding the hungry.

Nancy Sprowls, executive director of the Medina County Arts Council, thanked the fund for making the county’s arts week possible.

“Because of the fund, the council is able to pay performers and keep the performances of art week free,” she said. “Arts week enables us to provide quality entertainment to people who might not be able to afford it, and we are very grateful to the community fund because without them we would not be able to do what we do.”

This Friday, Medina County Community Fund will grant 14 more charities with $30,000 at its summer event — Spring into Summer.

Hagerty has set the goal to give $50,000 by next year.

“We are always looking for newer projects that we can get off the ground and help become self sustaining,” he said.

For people interested in donating to the Medina County Community Fund or attending the Spring into Summer event you can contact Timothy Hagerty at tim@mccfund.org or (330) 723-9039.

Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or adavis@medina-gazette.com.