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A “disconnected entrepreneur” might sound like someone running a company that isn’t tapped into what’s happening around them. And in a way, that’s true – but not the way you might suppose.

“Disconnected entrepreneurs” are those who have historically lacked access to the three essentials of successful businesses — capital, services and connections. Black-, Latinx- and women-owned businesses often find themselves without these three essentials and, as a result, may struggle to succeed.

Connecting our region’s enterprising but under-resourced business owners with these critical resources was the goal of Greater Toledo Community Foundation’s multi-year grants to JumpStart.

ESP provides insights for young companies

JumpStart had its beginnings 20 years ago in Cleveland as a venture to support tech startups in northeast Ohio. Backed by both state and community support — including major grants from the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) and KeyBank — JumpStart leads the ODOD’s Entrepreneurial Services Provider (ESP) program across Northern Ohio.

Its success with the ESP in Northeast Ohio made it the ideal organization to step into the gap in 2018, when a new leader was sought for northwest Ohio’s ESP, NextTech. Partnering with ProMedica and other organizations, JumpStart opened an office in Toledo and began leading the ESP in Northern Ohio. 

Over time, JumpStart also became highly experienced in serving disconnected entrepreneurs.

“We are not exclusively a minority business accelerator,” explained Amy Haschak, JumpStart’s director of Toledo operations, “but a lot of our work bridges that gap.” She added, “Our mission is to unlock the potential of entrepreneurship to transform entire communities. We find that some communities have more challenges than others — so making sure that everyone has access to resources is a JumpStart priority.”

GTCF and BGC partner for capital, services and connection

An initial Community Funds Impact grant from GTCF provided funds to support JumpStart’s work, including its centerpiece program, the Business Growth Collaborative (BGC). Convened and facilitated by JumpStart, the BGC currently comprises 12 independent nonprofits with a history of well-proven programming for business owners. The collaborative supports entrepreneurs in varying essential ways — including operational and technical support, financing and mentoring.

Addressing a shortage of mentors for disconnected entrepreneurs was a particular focus for the BGC. The GTCF Community Funds Impact grant, which extended over four years and helped to seed the BGC’s mentoring program, was key to attracting skilled participants. The initial outcomes were so successful, GTCF also awarded JumpStart a grant through the Equity and Access Initiative Fund. The additional award provided capital for minority owned businesses and entrepreneurs along with ongoing support for a relationship manager at a BGC member organization who focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion matters for clients.

GTCF’s Vice President of Community Investments, Patrick Johnston, explained: “Connecting area nonprofits for greater efficacy is a major focus of the Foundation. The goal of the BGC was to  bring together existing groups with well-proven track records to help them be more efficient.  It was an ideal fit.”

Amy described the game-changing role of the BGC: “It’s not uncommon for organizations to work alongside each other and make referrals, but then they don’t know what happens after that. The Business Growth Collaborative comes together in a more sophisticated way, with monthly meetings to discuss clients that need assistance and referrals.” The BGC also structures their client support by establishing milestones and tracking their clients’ progress toward those goals.

Education plays a vital role

Structured training is also key to JumpStart’s success model. “We do Value Proposition and Market Validation workshops for very early-stage businesses,” said Amy. “These provide a firm foundation for new entrepreneurs while also identifying business ideas that are not well thought-out or involve entry into an already saturated market.” Other programs available through JumpStart include one-on-one advising and a multi-week “Blueprint” program for start-up planning.

JumpStart clients with established businesses that meet a revenue threshold and other criteria can participate in their Impact program, a 12-week intensive limited to five businesses per cohort. Impact participants meet weekly with two advisors, a JumpStart staff member, and a volunteer from the community. At the end of the program, cohort members do a pitch showcase in front of judges from the community. “The top pitch is awarded $10,000 to support their business; the rest get $2,500,” said Amy, “so they are literally paid to enter the program. These and other JumpStart investments in entrepreneurs pay handsome dividends in terms of area business growth, employment and tax revenues,” she added.

State funding leverages donor dollars

JumpStart’s Communication Director, Vicki McDonald, noted that their funding structure provided even greater opportunity for impact. “Our grant from the state of Ohio has to be matched dollar for dollar,” she said. “So, to receive funds, we must raise the equivalent funds, giving us the unique ability to leverage our financial contributions.”

“We also wouldn’t have gotten as far as we have without our volunteers,” she added. “There are many exciting ways to support area entrepreneurs through JumpStart and make a deep economic impact on the community.”

As a teacher, Mary J. Baird would often take inspiration from a poster in her classroom emblazoned with these words. With the legacy scholarship fund she established in 2021, Mary will keep that flame burning brightly for former students of Sylvania’s Timberstone Junior High School.

“I’m excited about the sparkle in kids’ eyes,” she said, reflecting on her teaching experiences. “I taught 7th-grade English for 15 years, and then I was asked to develop a new gifted education program.” At first, Mary split her time between English and gifted ed at McCord Junior High — but when the new Timberstone Junior High was built, she took on gifted ed full time. “Everything began with the idea of creativity,” she said. “It gave the kids an open door — and when they walked through it, they flew from there.”

“Education is not the filling of the pail but the lighting of a fire.”

- William Butler Yeats

Mary also developed closer relationships with her Timberstone students than she was previously able to do. “I had the same kids for three years — 6th through 8th grade — so I knew them and their families.” She also knew of their unspoken hopes  for their future. “There are so many kids that have quiet, private dreams of what they want to do in their lives — but if they  don’t have the finances to take that leap, they can’t.”

After her retirement, Mary pondered for some time what she could do with her estate that would have meaning. “I was the last remaining member of my family,” she explained, “and in the back of my mind, I had those sparkling eyes. There are a lot of sparkling eyes out there who need to fly — what better purpose than to give them a springboard for college?”

With the help of her attorney, who suggested Mary work with Greater Toledo Community Foundation, she established a legacy scholarship fund, designated for former Timberstone students who will attend a four-year college or university. A committee of Timberstone teachers appointed by the school principal will determine each year’s awardees. “I called Jesse Stock at GTCF and he took the reins. It was easy after that,” she noted.

“My parents were so generous with us as kids and education was #1,” Mary said of her choice to fund the futures of others. “My father created a trust for us. Because so much love was funneled my way, I feel it is my responsibility to continue what they did.”

Many individuals who have established funds with Greater Toledo Community Foundation have come to know Bridget Brell Holt as a Foundation staff member and advocate for managing family philanthropy through GTCF. So, it was only natural when her mother, Joanne Seidel Brell, was about to lose her life to cancer that her father, Tom Brell, decided to establish a designated fund in his wife’s honor.

“When she became my wife, I was very lucky,” recalled Tom, reflecting on his partner of more than 50 years. “She was an amazingly talented woman, and she never sat still. But she also got on well with people and almost never said an unkind word about anyone. And she raised three wonderful daughters, too.”

As the wife of a third-generation resident of Maumee, two causes of particular importance to Joanne were the Maumee Valley Historical Society and St. Joseph’s School. She supported both with gifts and volunteer time — so the family chose a designated fund specifically to help finance these organizations.

“Joanne knew about the fund before she passed, including the benefitting organizations,” said Tom. “She was a big supporter of both the school and the historical society, so her fund continues that support now that she’s passed.”

Said Bridget’s sister, Gretchen, “One thing we love about the fund is that we can honor her memory with contributions for family birthdays and holidays.” She noted that when their sister Becky passed in 2014, all the donations in her memory were contributed to the fund.

“Since Mom died in 2005, her fund has grown tremendously,” observed Bridget, “and it will go on in perpetuity. We like that it makes giving very simple, and if either the school or historical society cease to exist, the Foundation will continue to honor her memory by supporting similar organizations.”

“Mom was from a very comfortable family and contributing to society was very important,”  said Gretchen. “Giving back to the community was just a way of life — they served as well as gave. With this fund, we all can continue  that tradition.”

As one of the Toledo area’s leading family-focused community agencies, the YMCA of Greater Toledo has had a long relationship with Greater Toledo Community Foundation. When the COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of so many served by the Y, the established partnership became more important than ever.

Rewriting the script for childcare

“GTCF had been helping support our early childhood programs that serve infants, toddlers and preschoolers by enabling us to improve teaching practices and program quality, as well as hiring a teacher mentor to implement curriculum programs,” said Lesley Doria, YMCA Vice President of Child Care. “The whole culture in our early childhood programs had changed in a positive direction.”

She continued, “It’s well-known that more than 60% of children entering kindergarten in Ohio are not ready to learn. Our goal was to have every child kindergarten-ready, and pre-COVID we had been making tremendous progress. We had more than 20 centers serving 1300 to 1500 kids each day from 10 area school districts, with about 86% of kids in our programs at ready-to-learn levels.”

Then on March 25, all early childcare centers were ordered to close — and the Y’s forward momentum suddenly halted. “We received pandemic licensing but maintaining capacity to re-open was a challenge. We had to change health and safety practices as well as cleaning procedures and spent a lot of time and expense to make those work,” said Lesley. “At first, we were able to keep only four centers open and could accept only about 200 youngsters from families of essential workers.”

Pre-pandemic, the Y was also working inside elementary schools, providing wrap-around before- and after-school care — and again, the Y adapted. “We worked directly with school districts in the past, so we were an entity the schools could lean on for support,” said Lesley. “We transitioned our early childcare stand-alone services to accommodate working families with school-aged kids who needed daytime supervision.”

Lesley observed that GTCF funding was vital to sustaining the YMCA’S childcare activities during the peak months of the pandemic. “Some of the funds helped us provide staff to facilitate virtual learning. Kids needed a lot of help with that, especially at the very beginning,” she noted.

“And, about 50% of our kids are on some kind of assistance, such as state funds or YMCA scholarships, and paid by attendance, rather than enrollment. This was tough because student attendance was very inconsistent,” she explained. “The other 50% of families couldn’t budget for kids to be out of school the entire time. Going from $60 or $80 a week for part-time to $140 for full-time is a big jump up. GTCF funding allowed us to expand services to kids without passing costs along to families.”

Feeding the newly hungry

When many formerly self-sufficient families found themselves under financial stress, GTCF funding also supported expanded food distribution and hot meals for families at various YMCA facilities across the region.

Beth Deakins, YMCA’s Director of Healthy Living, explained the Y’s role of distribution in a collaborative effort to provide meals to families in need. “We work with Summer Meal Partners, a group that provides kids with food when school is not in session, Connecting Kids to Meals, and A Village on Adams / Manhattan’s Catering, both of which provide the bulk of meals for children in after-school programs, sports programs that feed participating kids, and YMCA sites,” she said.

With pandemic restrictions in place, the Y and their partners no longer could provide the in-person, family-meal experiences that were their norm. But hot meals that families could enjoy together was still the focus. And, with the GTCF grant, the program expanded from one to three meals a day — so when parents came to pick up lunches, they would also get something for dinner and breakfast for the following day.

“We saw the same faces and families over and over,” said Beth. “They told us that sharing breakfast, lunch and dinner together when the parents were unable to work made a big difference. Because of the GTCF funding we received, we built new relationships with families that typically wouldn’t have needed assistance.

“In some cases, families weren’t even really able to cook,” Beth added. “One of the barriers we consistently saw were families that didn’t even have the means to cook — like a working stove or oven, or pots and pans — or families who had the utilities turned off because they were unable to pay the bills. The hot meals that the Y was able to provide helped parents fill the gap even though they didn’t personally have the means to make that happen.”

GTCF grant supports sustained service

“When it was announced that schools were going to go remote and food access at schools would no longer be available to them, the Y network pulled together to ask, ‘What are the locations where we could start something immediately?’” said Beth. Right away, Wayman Palmer and Eastern Community Y, serving Oregon & East Toledo residents, were added, as were the West Toledo and Wolf Creek locations a few weeks later, with Panera as an additional meal-prep supporter.

“GTCF funding came through quickly, and the actual dollars lasted us through October. But, because of the funding we got, we were able to put some things in place to help us sustain the programs,” said Beth. “Food insecurity issues are not going away. Food access has been an issue in our community for some time, and the GTCF grant has provided resources to building systems and structures that will help address these issues going forward.”

Beth also acknowledged the service of countless volunteers, some of whom were actually furloughed YMCA employees and older community members who were among the most at risk of contracting COVID-19. “It’s passion work,” she noted. “The strength of relationship and collaboration in Toledo really pushed us ahead in the pandemic and gave us an opportunity to build people up at a time when things were crumbling beneath us.” Added Lesley, “Shifting our programs to meet shifting needs was how we kept going.”

Like so many who relocate from a big city to Toledo, Meg and Dick Ressner discovered it was a place where they could have a special kind of impact.

“Dick and I met in Chicago while with Owens-Corning (OC), and moved here in 1989,” said Meg. “We fell hard for Toledo because we realized we could make a real difference here.”

The couple’s dedication to their new community began with volunteering and continues today from their residences in Toledo and Florida. “Early on, I served on the board of the Toledo Arts Commission, David’s House, and the OC Foundation — back then, you had to be physically present for meetings. Now, we can stay involved no matter where we are,” she noted.

Thanks to Meg’s prior involvement with the OC Foundation, the Ressners are also very strategic about their giving — so the couple’s philanthropic commitment to Toledo was a deciding factor in establishing a fund with GTCF. “When our financial advisor suggested we create a donor advised fund, we could have done that with any wealth management firm, and we vetted all those options,” she noted. “But GTCF is a leader in the community that is making a difference for Toledo — so if we were going to do this, we wanted to do it with them.”

Maintaining a philanthropic focus is another priority for the Ressners. “I had my causes, he had his — but with our fund, we said no, we’re going to make an impact with the things we care about as a family. Deciding that was the hard part. After you decide that, the Foundation makes it easy,” she noted. “I use their online system— we do all our stuff online and it’s simple. I like that — I do not like it when it’s complicated!” she laughed.

Meg and Dick Ressner, center, at Inverness Country Club with (left to right)
Adam Reny, Evans Scholar Alumnus and Executive Director, First Tee of Lake Erie,
and Ohio State Evans Scholars Johnathan Burks, '22; Gina Silvestri, '25;
and Brandon Burks, '24.

While also reserving a portion of their resources to support friends’ causes, the Ressners have dedicated their volunteer work and giving to women’s empowerment, autism, the Evans Scholar program for young golf caddies, and the new collaboration between First Tee of Lake Erie and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo, serving youth in the Rogers-McTigue learning community. But when COVID-19 brought a halt to community activities, Meg found a new way to support Toledo with the creation of another fund at GTCF.  

“During Covid, my friend Annie and I were staying connected with Zoom coffee chats,” she explained. “We were talking about how lucky we both were — and Annie said ‘We’ve got to do something. What if we raised money to pay the restaurants to make food to serve the hospitals and first responders … they can be our ‘plus one’ for a meal.”

After their Zoom call, Meg promptly emailed several restauranteurs about the idea — and within a week of creating the Toledo Plus One Fund at GTCF, more than $20,000 in donations had come into the Fund and delivery of hot, restaurant-grade meals for hospitals and first responders began. Toledo Plus One raised more than $70,000, funding more than 4,100 meals.

Meg cites three reasons for opening a family fund at GTCF.  “First, it was a witness to the difference that GTCF makes in Toledo – it fits our ‘supporting Toledo’ strategy. They’ve also been incredibly helpful — we couldn’t have done Toledo Plus One if we didn’t have the Foundation to make it work. We trust them to manage our funds wisely. And, we wanted the flexibility tax-wise to release the money when we need to, in a way that is consistent with our strategy. Our GTCF fund makes all of that possible.”

Start A Fund

To inquire about starting a fund at the Foundation, please contact Mike Greer, Vice President, Philanthropic Services & Advancement,
at 419-241-5049 or [email protected]

When Stephanie White encouraged her father, Dave, to establish what became the Hugh David & Dana White Family Fund with Greater Toledo Community Foundation, she had no idea she would be one of the advisors to that fund so soon after it was established.

Both Stephanie and her dad begun their own funds in 2019. “Our family did quite a bit of charitable giving, both privately and through the car dealership, but didn’t publicize it,” said Stephanie. “My parents supported all kinds of causes.  They were both outdoor people who oved animals, so that was a special focus of their giving, but they also supported many other things, like education, the arts and health care.”

Her parents’ generosity was something they instilled in the younger generations in their family, too. “Some time ago, Dad started giving our family members gifts to give to charity,” said Stephanie. “We each received an amount that we had to donate — and we had to give away all of it.”

After a few years, Stephanie decided to manage her charitable gifts with a fund at GTCF. “Our family had several good friends who were involved with the Foundation since day one,” she said. “I was also in Sylvania Rotary with Mike George, GTCF’s VP of Philanthropic Services & Advancement at the time, so I was comfortable having the discussion.”

The Dave White family, seen here in Wyoming, enjoyed vacationing together in the outdoors.

After multiple conversations, Dave, Sr. decided to follow Stephanie in establishing a fund at GTCF. Dave, Sr. elected to establish a donor advised fund, while Stephanie chose a donor directed pooled fund. “We had considered establishing our own foundation,” noted Stephanie, “but after talking to GTCF, we saw we could do the same type of work without having to do the work of managing the funds.”

But just a few months later, Dave, Sr. had an unexpected health crisis. “Dad had COVID-19 in July of last year and came through it like a champ,” said Stephanie. “Then shortly after that, while I was out in Wyoming for business, I got a call from him saying ‘I just got diagnosed with esophageal cancer.’”

Dave, Sr., Stephanie and her brother Dave, Jr., headed at once to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for Dave’s treatment. After a number of weeks undergoing out-of-town treatment, Dave decided to continue his treatment back in Toledo where he could enjoy the end of duck-hunting season and time with his brothers and family.

Sadly, Dave, Sr. lost his battle with cancer in January of this year. “My dad would have been 84 on February 1 this year, and you would never have known it. He was an active sportsman and only four weeks before he passed away, he was duck hunting. My mom, Dana, had traveled to Kenya less than a year before she passed from cancer. That’s one reason why we’ve been avid supporters of the American Cancer Society.”

Now Stephanie and her brother, Dave, are the successor advisors to their parents’ fund. “Our plan is to continue doing what we’ve always been doing. Our entire family has had a history of generosity. I think Mom and Dad would trust us to make sure it was ‘done right’ and honor the family traditions.”

Start A Fund

To inquire about starting a fund at the Foundation, please contact Mike Greer, Vice President, Philanthropic Services & Advancement, at 419-241-5049 or [email protected]

Meet Mark and Gretchen Zyndorf

Mark Zyndorf will tell you that when he married his wife Gretchen after nearly a lifetime of bachelorhood, he found true love with one of the most exceptional women he’d ever known.

“Her stepdaughter would describe her as a cross between Martha Stewart and Mother Teresa,” he said. “And it’s true. She was a very creative person, and loved to entertain. And everything was about others – never about her.”

Gretchen’s selfless nature was inspired by a keen awareness of her blessings and a deep sensitivity to others who were less fortunate. She spent a lonely childhood on her family’s farm, and had a difficult but brief marriage to her high-school sweetheart. Gretchen then remarried happily to a successful physician but was widowed after just twelve years. She married again, this time to Mark’s best friend, Sheldon, whom she also lost to lengthy illness.

Sharing a common grief for their lost loved one, Mark and Gretchen soon were seeing each other with some frequency. “Gretchen wondered if perhaps it was too early to consider a new relationship,” said Mark, “so she consulted our rabbi. ‘Life is for the living,’ was his advice – so she took it.” Within two years, the couple wed.

As Mark’s wife, Gretchen continued her lifetime habit of helping others in ways big and small. “She enjoyed doing the behind-the-scenes work,” said Mark. “She cooked a full meal every month for a homeless shelter. She served on the board of the Sight Center – but she also read to the blind. She donated to the Humane Society‚ but she’d also clean cat boxes and cages as a volunteer.”

Gretchen was well-off in her own right before she married Mark, a successful commercial real-estate developer, so she managed her own funds. “She didn’t buy expensive clothes or a lot of stuff for herself,” said Mark. “But she couldn’t figure out where all her money was going. I said ‘Give me your checkbook and I’ll tell you.’ Then I discovered nearly all of her personal expenditures were gifts to charity.”

Photo: Gretchen and Mark Zyndorf enjoyed travelling together. Here,
they are savoring a gondola ride through the canals of Venice.

With that, they decided to establish a donor advised fund for Gretchen at GTCF. And, when they established a number of legacy funds (planned gifts) for Gretchen, they were making provisions for an eventuality in the distant future. But then, an unexpected illness changed everything.

“She didn’t drink, and took excellent care of her health,” said Mark. “But despite all that, she contracted a rare form of liver cancer,” he explained. Thanks to excellent medical treatment, Gretchen and Mark were able to enjoy almost three additional years together before she lost her battle with the disease.

Speaking of her generous spirit, Mark said, “Gretchen wanted to be sure that when she passed, her legacy would include support for the causes she held dear – the arts, animals, and people in need. Caring for the less fortunate was tremendously important to her. If ever there was an angel, she was one.”

Join the Legacy Society

For information about current or deferred giving, or to join our Legacy Society, please contact one of our Philanthropic Services Officers at 419.241.5049.

Contact Us

If Warren Buffett had a “biggest fan,” it just might be Harold Leupp.

“My dad idolizes Warren Buffett,” said his daughter, Melissa. And Harold agrees. “I’m a huge admirer of what he’s accomplished, and the kind of person he is,” Harold stated.

In fact, the two men have many things in common – midwestern roots, a hard-working, entrepreneurial spirit that took hold in their youth, a commitment to philanthropy – and as his civil engineering career advanced, Harold applied Buffett’s principles to become a successful investor, too. “When each of the kids graduated from college, we gave them stock in Cedar Point” he said. “I wanted to start them out investing right away.”

For both Harold and his wife Carol, philanthropy also started early in life. “When we were kids and attended the Delta Presbyterian Church, we’d put pennies in the collection box as kids,” said Harold. “Sharing with others is a basic Christian concept.”

Harold also admires Warren Buffett’s emphasis on his children’s financial independence, and the fact that the Buffett children are all active philanthropists. So when Harold and Carol were considering the family’s holiday gifts this year, they decided to encourage their own children’s philanthropy by giving each of them their own GTCF donor advised fund.

Photo: The Leupp family, Christmas 2019. Pictured in back (left to right): Chris Corbett, Michael Corbett, Meghan Corbett, Jordan Leupp, Erin Leupp and Chris Leupp. In front: Sarah Corbett, Blythe Leupp, Melissa Leupp, Carol Leupp, Harold Leupp and Patti Leupp.

Said Carol, “We’ve had a donor advised fund at the Foundation for a while,” noting that they use their fund to support arts and education groups, people in need, the Village of Delta and their local church. Harold added, “I could be a salesman for the Foundation. We have 24 organizations that we give to. And the Foundation does such a wonderful job — it takes all the work right out of it. We thought it would be perfect for the kids.”

“I was very pleased,” said Melissa about her father’s gift, noting that it was very fitting given his admiration for Buffett. “When we came home for the holidays, Dad brought each of us — me, my sister Sarah and my brother, Christopher — into his office and gave us a briefing on how he had established funds for each of us for our charitable giving. He explained how he and Mom had a fund of their own and how they used it.”

Melissa, a school occupational therapist in Arlington, Virginia, particularly appreciated the ability to be more strategic about her giving. “In the past,” she said, “I’ve had limited ability to contribute to organizations that are important to me. Because I’m so involved with education in my community and a mother, too, I’m looking to support causes that I don’t have time to devote myself to.”

Not surprisingly, Melissa is interested in supporting education with her fund, an interest shared by her mother, who worked for a few years as a schoolteacher. “I also want to use my fund to support social causes and the environment,” she said. “My parents’ gift will allow my giving to have more intention and more impact.”

Establish Your Fund

The Leupp Family found Donor Advised Funds at the Foundation to be the perfect way to continue their family’s long interest in local giving, while giving them the flexibility to focus on causes that match their varied and changing interests. Learn how to establish your own Donor Advised Fund.

Ways To Give

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.

Margaret Wheatley

Two years ago, two Toledo arts organizations had a conversation. No one knew at the outset that it would matter quite as much as it did. But at its conclusion, a unique model was created that combined the symphony and ballet — the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts — and a new era had begun for both music and dance in Toledo.

TAPAs performance of Carmina Burana, Feb. 2020

At first, the conversation was about finances, explained Zak Vassar, president of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra (TSO).

“For decades, members of the TSO had comprised the pit orchestra for the Toledo Ballet, most notably for their annual performance of The Nutcracker,” he said. “But in recent years, the Ballet had begun to experience some financial pressures and asked the TSO if they could reduce their price for the annual performances of the holiday classic.

“Members of the Symphony are paid contractually established rates, so our cost was not something we could change,” he continued. “But we wanted to assist. So, we offered to help them sell more tickets to the performances.” TSO proposed setting a target beyond which all receipts would be split 50/50, and the Ballet agreed.

Photo: TAPA's combined performance of Carmina Burana, Feb. 14, 2020

With their well-established promotional channels, TSO’s involvement lead to a 24% increase in box-office revenues for The Nutcracker that season. Describing a post-event review meeting, Zak said, “We asked: Should we do this again? To which the then-chair of the Ballet board, Stephanie Alexander, replied, ‘Let’s do this forever.’”

Enter GTCF and the Strategic Alliance Partnership (SAP).

“We knew a facilitated discussion would be essential to a successful process,” said Zak. “The facilitator would need to be a skilled professional with extensive experience in the arts. We also knew about the GTCF’s Strategic Alliance Partnership and how the SAP grant could assist with the cost of our facilitator.”

Heather Bradley, director of The Center for Nonprofit Resources and SAP Program Officer, described the role of the SAP grant in the process. “SAP grants support collaborations of all types between nonprofits that operate in similar arenas,” she said. “One example of SAP support is engaging a neutral third-party professional who can help participants identify a sustainable business model.”

She continued, “This is the one GTCF grant that involves a two-step process. We received a letter of inquiry, which was then reviewed by all three SAP investment partners — GTCF, Stranahan Foundation and ProMedica,” she explained. The fund partners agreed on the merits of the collaboration and invited the participants, who by then had grown to include the Toledo Opera, to submit a proposal.

A real conversation always contains an invitation … to tell you who they are or what they want.

— David Whyte

With the grant in place, the group secured La Piana Consulting to facilitate the discussions. “La Piana came to the table with an early clarification of what would come from this,” said Zak, “ranging from nothing at all, up to and including shared participation, marketing, box-office sales or a total merger.”

While the initial vision was music, song and dance, the Opera chose to remain independent in the end. “The generosity of the GTCF funding provided the space to express with candor both our hopes and our fears,” observed Zak. “The facilitator allowed us to investigate our potentials, choose what’s best for each and still leave the process as friends.”

Zak pointed to another dynamic involving the remaining two groups. “We can’t say that we came to the table as equal organizations,” he said. “The Ballet relied quite a bit on parental and community volunteers. Its dancers were pre-professional youth, occasionally joined by hired adult performers. In contrast, the Symphony had a robust staff, professional union musicians and a $7 million budget. But,” he paused to note, “our attitude was that we were two equals coming together.”

Conversation is a catalyst for innovation.

— John Seely Brown

“The discussion also improved our vision of what we could accomplish creatively,” Zak added. “The visual experience of the symphony is quite static, so the opportunity to expand dance into the orchestral space, making movement a part of the audience experience, was huge.” The process concluded in a decision to form a new organization, TAPA, which would handle administration for both the Symphony and Ballet and facilitate their creative collaboration.

The new structure resulted in immediate operational efficiencies. The Ballet had several unresolved vacancies that TAPA made unnecessary to fill. Their executive director joined the Symphony, which in turn afforded the Ballet all the benefits of its fundraising and marketing infrastructure. But there were still concerns to be resolved.

“When we thought about the branding implication of the merger, the biggest question I had was: ‘How do we answer the phone?’” said Zak. “We had to change our names on everything. This is a functional and marketing issue — but it’s also an organizational culture issue.”

He explained: “Donors have such a significant investment in the mission and people of each organization that if we say, ‘give to TAPA,’ we have erased the emotional ties to the legacy organizations. We had to address that concern, too.” So, for now, the TAPA business cards have on the back both TSO and Ballet logos, and the two organizations maintain separate annual fundraising efforts.

Even with these concerns, it is evident to all involved that the benefits of collaboration are outweighing the potential challenges. Zak concluded, “For me, the most exhilarating thing about the merger was what happened in the community after the two organizations raised their hands and said, ‘Let’s collaborate.’ It’s truly a multi-genre experiment to grow the appetite for both music and dance in this region. Our recent performance of Carmina Burana was an example of this, and one that I couldn’t be prouder of.”

The Strategic Alliance Partnership was created to support the exploration and formation of collaborations, alliances and/or mergers that would enable area nonprofits to achieve more effective and efficient use of financial and human resources, gain greater long-term financial stability and enhance social impact. If your nonprofit seeks to benefit from such a partnership, please contact Heather Bradley at [email protected]

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Learn more about Strategic Alliance Partnership (SAP) grants offered through Greater Toledo Community Foundation.

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A Community Joins Forces to Battle Human Trafficking

Two decades ago, victims of human trafficking in northwest Ohio — and indeed, in most of the nation — faced bleak prospects. Labeled as criminals, they had little hope of escaping those who exploited them, as their alternative to slavery was usually imprisonment.

In the late ‘90s, as the public began to better understand the real nature of human trafficking, the criminal justice system likewise began to change its approach, and area social service agencies got involved. But while the goals were admirable, the shadowy nature of human trafficking made it hard to identify those in need, and the various groups working on their behalf were not well coordinated.

To improve the situation in northwest Ohio, stakeholders came together to form the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition (LCHTC). It brought together key partners in law enforcement, health care, social services agencies, and education to improve prosecution of traffickers and assistance to their victims. But process issues still persisted.

Enter PATH

“PATH — Partners Against Trafficking in Humans — Is both a network and a methodology,” explained Chris Dziad, program officer for the Toledo Community Foundation. “The network includes more than 60 area agencies and individuals who work with victims of human trafficking on everything from legal services to housing to job training and placement. PATH’s methodology is to find victims of human trafficking, link them with services, and use data from those services to improve outcomes.”

PATH was the product of collaboration between the LCHTC and Dr. Celia Williamson, director of UT’s Human Trafficking Institute, and PATH Coordinator, Fanell Williams. “I had been serving as an evaluator of a program called Pathways, developed in Mansfield, Ohio by Dr. Sarah Redding,” said Williamson. “Pathways was incredibly successful in improving outcomes for low-birth-weight babies. I saw that it could be applied to the human trafficking issue with similar results.”  

Data-driven feedback improves outcomes

 “What’s different about PATH is the academic component,” explains Brett Loney, UT Foundation Associate Vice President of Central Development, who brought the project to TCF’s attention. “UT’s Human Trafficking Institute provides both teaching and research to analyze and improve outcomes.”

Commenting on the Institute’s role in PATH, Dr. Williamson explained, “The Pathways model that we adapted involved the use of a ‘hub’ that served both as a resource for connecting victims to services, and for gathering data from those services.

“With the data collected from those agencies,” she continued, “we can identify the interventions that work and those that don’t. Our leadership subcommittees then work with those findings to break down barriers and improve our processes.  That allows us to direct community resources accordingly.”

In the local PATH model, the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio houses and manages the PATH hub.  Said Dziad, “The Council was already involved with the low-birth-weight project, and so PATH was a natural fit for them. Their collaboration is an essential part of the process.”

PATH also has a mission-critical training component that was Dr. Williamson’s innovation. “To succeed, we must first prepare the community,” said Williamson. “Upon joining PATH, all participating agencies receive training in human trafficking issues, trauma-informed care, and the PATH model – so we are all on the same page.”

A well-conceived plan opens funding doors

When PATH needed startup funding, Loney thought it might be a fit for the Toledo Community Foundation.

“When I first learned of PATH, I thought it fit the Toledo Community Foundation way of doing things,” said Loney. “It involved community collaboration with established participants who had proven track records, and it was well-visioned.”

Loney also noted that PATH had already obtained both private and public grants, and had excellent prospects for continued funding once the program was established. “The evidence-based approach of this program is very attractive to supporters,” he added.

Chris Dziad agreed. “Human trafficking was an issue the Toledo Community Foundation had established a decade ago as a priority,” she said. “So, when the UT Foundation approached us about PATH, we were thrilled.

“We could see it had all the characteristics we look for in a funding opportunity,” she continued, “and UT’s commitment of support meant they had both stability and strong potential to win large grants from major funders to sustain their work.”

“We could see it had all the characteristics we look for in a funding opportunity and UT’s commitment of support meant they had both stability and strong potential to win large grants from major funders to sustain their work.”

_ CHRIS DZIAD

Stability for PATH’s clients and a safer, healthier community is the ultimate goal of everyone involved with PATH. “We don’t just want victims to survive.  Our goal is to move them from victim to survivor to THRIVER,” said Dr. Williamson. “I never once met a victim who didn’t want a better life,” she added. “We can make that happen.”

No more "throwaway people"

The story of PATH begins more than two decades ago with one remarkably determined individual, UT professor Dr. Celia Williamson, and her conviction that a broken system not only could be repaired, but could be completely reconceived.

“Back in the early ‘90s, I was just going to be a social worker helping women and kids in Toledo’s North End, and then retire,” mused Dr. Williamson, reflecting on her early career goals. “Human trafficking victims were not my focus. Initially, I just wanted them off the streets and not troubling ‘my kids.’

“But then I started to realize that these women were actually victims,” she said. “And where was the help for them? There wasn’t any – because we treat these women as ‘throwaway people.’  We think, ‘I’m going to help someone who DESERVES help,’ and we pass them by. I couldn’t just let that happen.”

Creating a "go-to" place for victims

Williamson recognized at the outset that before she tried to solve the problem, she needed to understand it — and so her first step was research. After six months of interviewing victims in Toledo’s north end, she formed her first program to serve trafficked women, named by the women themselves as Second Chance. “Second Chance (now known as RISE) soon got a reputation as being the place to go for anyone having trouble with ‘the system.’ Even insiders like police and health care workers got involved,” said Williamson.

Reframing the discussion

Knowing that the public felt such women didn’t “deserve” help, another of Celia’s goals was to reframe the discussion surrounding trafficking victims. “I worked closely with The Blade to connect reporters to stories they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to tell – and in so doing, we were able to heighten public awareness and shift public opinion,” she recalled. “I also did a LOT of presentations to area churches. Our first grant for Second Chance came from the United Methodist Church as a result of one of those presentations,” she noted.

When the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, the problem was finally redefined legally. “We didn’t even use the term ‘human trafficking’ originally,” said Williamson. “With the passage of that law, anyone under 18 engaging in prostitution was automatically defined as a victim, as was anyone who was under force, fraud or coercion. Calling this ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ completely changed the discussion.”

Developing a global network of experts

The year 2000 saw another important goal completed for Dr. Williamson: she finished her PhD at Indiana University and accepted a position on the faculty at The University of Toledo. “I knew my research opportunities were here because I already had an established network of people in the tough communities I had served in the past – so doors would open here.”

And open they did. With her new duties of teaching and research, Williamson turned over Second Chance to its well-mentored staff and turned her attention to overcoming the next major barrier in human trafficking: communication.

“People in the field weren’t sharing what was working and what wasn’t – we needed a conference. So I decided to host one.” she said. Now in its 14th year, the annual Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference attracts more than 1500 attendees to the UT campus each year, and has greatly expanded both awareness and understanding of human trafficking.

Establishing UT's Human Trafficking Institute

As UT’s thought leadership in the field of human trafficking grew, University leadership recognized the need for a greater commitment to support that work.  And in 2014, UT’s governing board voted unanimously to create the Human Trafficking Institute at UT, one of the first of its kind worldwide.

The Institute’s mission is to expand knowledge about human trafficking and to establish best practices in the field of human trafficking intervention. Its ongoing partnership with the UT Foundation was an important factor in the establishment of PATH.

“The UT Foundation was a tremendous asset to the Institute. It’s been a wonderful partnership,” she said. “Together, we’ve identified objectives and priorities; drafted case statements, opened doors, and started the conversations that have led to real change in the community.”

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