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Red State, Blue Causes: The Local Foundation Pursuing an Equity Agenda in Ohio

By Caitlin Reilly, Inside Philanthropy

A foundation committed to Cleveland recently put $4 million toward encouraging inclusive, equitable economic growth in northeastern Ohio. The funder also distributed about $10 million in additional grants to support work on climate change, criminal justice reform, equity in the arts, education and LGBTQ communities in the region.

The George Gund Foundation’s recent grants cover a range of organizations and causes, but they share a focus on equity and inclusion. It’s a progressive agenda in a state that’s increasingly leaning right when it comes to state and national elections. The foundation’s grantmaking is also an example of local funders working to reduce inequality at a moment when Washington has put this issue on the backburner—or made the problem worse through actions like last year’s tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.

With assets around $300 million, the Gund Foundation has long been a powerhouse when it comes to funding nonprofits in Cleveland and the surrounding region. It was endowed by George Gund II, who passed away in 1966 and left his fortune to his namesake foundation. Gund was a banker and real estate investor who spend most of his life in Cleveland.

Since Gund’s death, his foundation has carved out a niche for itself as big supporter of Cleveland’s nonprofits. The foundation’s giving typically focuses on arts, education, economic development, the environment and human services. Much of the funding stays in Cleveland, though the Gund Foundation is known for its support of national efforts to combat climate change.

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