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Erie Community Foundation

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Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, many companies and foundations focused on community relief and assistance. Here, Michael Batchelor, president of The Erie Community Foundation (ECF), discusses their response and ECF’s history of giving back.

The Erie Community Foundation has been fueling philanthropic efforts in the Erie community for decades. Tell us about how it began and became the organization it is today.

The Erie Community Foundation traces its roots to the creation of The Erie Endowment in 1935 by Elisha H. Mack, co-founder of The Boston Store. We became a community foundation in 1971. Over the last 30 years, we have raised nearly $450 million, distrib- uted $320 million, and grew assets from $20 million to $280 million. Over time, we have become more proactive and built effective community partnerships with other leadership organizations.

ECF’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our region by evaluating and addressing community issues, by building permanent charitable endowments, and by promoting philanthropic and community leadership. Please provide a brief snapshot of the primary initiatives that the Foundation supports.

Last year, the Foundation made 2,400 competitive, donor advised, donor designated and scholarship grants totaling $22.2 million. As a community foundation, we sit at the crossroads of great wealth and great need. We connect donors to causes they care about. We base many decisions on Erie Vital Signs, our community key indicator project. We also strive to amplify our financial impact through convening and community leadership.

We work throughout the County through regional affiliate foundations in Corry, Findley Lake, North East and Union City. We support the Erie Women’s Fund, LGBT Community Endowment, and Young Philanthropy groups.

The COVID-19 crisis impacted all facets of our community. The Foundation quickly raised $667,801 for 41 local nonprofits. Tell us about this and ongoing efforts to assist during the recovery.

The Erie Community Foundation created an emergency Erie Gives to rapidly mobilize needed funds. We were delighted that community partners, including Erie Insurance, United Way, Hamot Health Foundation and Highmark/Allegheny Health, Erie County Housing Authority, Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation and Erie Women’s Fund, joined with remarkable speed and generosity. Donor advisers, the general public and partners such as Erie Bank, First National Bank, National Fuel, Marquette Savings Bank, PNC Foundation and Schaffner Knight Minnaugh, also made major gifts.

Like many businesses, ECF is reprioritizing. We are also pushing grant dollars out the door faster.

Erie Gives will mark its 10th year on August 11, 2020. What makes this campaign so unique and so successful?

Erie Gives is successful because of our strong community can-do spirit. We introduced Erie Gives in 2011 to celebrate the Foundation’s 75th anniversary. That year, 2,770 donors gave $771,435 to 212 nonprofits. Last year, 8,976 donors supported 391 nonprofits with nearly $5.5 million in gifts. Erie Gives 2020 is scheduled for August 11. Because of COVID-19, we hope to increase the prorated match pool since the nonprofits need us now more than ever.

After 30 years at The Erie Community Foundation, you recently announced your retirement. What’s next for you and the Foundation?

It has been the honor of a lifetime to work with talented staff, generous donors, committed nonprofits and first-class boards to help the community that I love. For the next few years, I will be available to assist the Foundation on an as-needed basis.

I also plan to serve community foundations across the nation on a limited consulting basis. I have never been more optimistic about our community’s future, and I know future leadership will continue to build upon our accomplishments.

The Foundation engaged Kittleman & Associates, a national executive search firm, to conduct a local and national search for the new president. We are targeting a year-end hire, but I will remain in place until a successor is named.

Mike Batchelor will be the keynote speaker at the Manufacturer & Business Association’s IMPACT webinar on July 23, 2020. To register or to learn more, visit www.mbausa.org.