Art of philanthropy

Prior to 1998, my idea of philanthropy was writing a check every year to my alma mater and occasionally making a small donation during the United Way campaign.

That year, Smart Business Network, along with Medical Mutual of Ohio, launched the Pillar Award for Community Service. From that moment, my perception of philanthropy was forever changed.

Working on the program that first year — assembling a judging panel, reading nomination forms and writing the inaugural batch of winners’ profiles — I discovered how important the relationship is between the for-profit world and nonprofit world.

Government financial assistance was shrinking, and nonprofit organizations were becoming more reliant on fund-raising efforts and the largesse of the corporate community. The leaders of nonprofit agencies were beginning to realize that they had to run their organizations with traditional for-profit business principles in order to become more fiscally responsible and, subsequently, more successful.

Yet many of these managers hadn’t yet figured out what this meant.

This month, we celebrate Northeast Ohio’s pillars of philanthropy in the fifth annual Pillar Award for Community Service. Over the past five years, more than 50 local companies have been honored for their good corporate deeds. During that time, we’ve reported on how nonprofit organizations build the foundation of success with the assistance of the community’s business leaders and corporations that provide advice, personal involvement and financial commitment.

As the event has developed, we’ve added more pieces to help our audience gain a true understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the two communities and how they’re inching closer together.

As you read this month’s cover package, you’ll learn about the art of giving from some of the most successful implementers of philanthropic programs across Northeast Ohio. We also share the results from a community relations survey we co-developed with one of our Pillar sponsors, BrownFlynn Communications.

We hope you enjoy the coverage and, more important, that you get a better understanding of your company’s role in this changing philanthropic dynamic.