Stock meeting philanthropy

Nonprofit organizations thrive off of donor contributions. Likewise, people in the community thrive off of these organizations’ provided services like fundraisers and community events. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, organizations in Northeast Ohio had to adapt in order to keep engaging with the communities they serve.

Joan Katz Napoli, vice president of education and community programs at The Cleveland Orchestra, and Vicki McDonald, communications director at JumpStart Inc. in Cleveland, said community engagement is vital for both the organizations and the communities they are in.

McDonald said JumpStart provides services and connections to help entrepreneurs grow, researchers commercialize and corporations innovate. When it comes to reaching entrepreneurs – both tech startups and small businesses – they need to connect to them in a number of different ways in order to ensure that local entrepreneurs know about and have access to those free resources that are available to them.

She added events have always been the primary vehicle for connecting with clients, because events help foster connections and allow entrepreneurs to garner inspiration from networking and peer-to-peer learning.

Some of those events look like pitch competitions, workshops, investing question-and-answer sessions, town halls and a ‘founders unfiltered’ series which includes candid conversations with tech entrepreneurs from both Northeast Ohio and across the country.

Prior to COVID-19, The Cleveland Orchestra had community programs at different locations in the community, including in-school programs. Because of the pandemic, it had to adapt to a more virtual offering.

One of these programs included a new digital streaming service called Adella, named after The Cleveland Orchestra founder, Adella Prentiss Hughes. This set in motion a series of digital offerings of The Cleveland Orchestra, featuring musicians, and delivered programs in their series called “In Focus.”

The orchestra also launched a weekly podcast series called “On a Personal Note” that featured a Cleveland Orchestra musician or a guest talking about themselves and a piece of music that was important to them.

As things have slowly started to open up again, the orchestra performed outdoor concerts over the summer at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls. It has also performed outdoor community festivals in the last few months, such as at One World Day and the Hispanic Heritage Festival.

It will return to in-person concerts next week at Severance Music Center in Cleveland, with COVID protocols, but will still maintain a digital presence.

“I think that digital content that was created is still very valuable,” Napoli said. “And the teachers are eager for that too. It really helped us reach a lot of people, and gave teachers more resources than they’ve ever had before.”

McDonald said JumpStart also invested in resources to help them be a little bit better at producing content and sharing it. But in-person networking is still vital, she added.

“We’re continuing to do it,” McDonald said. “I think we’ve gotten better at it. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to replace the benefits of in-person networking, building those relationships and those connections. Because for entrepreneurs, it can be a really challenging and lonely journey. So those events really help foster networking and the connections that you need to make and we’ve found virtual networking is just not quite the same.”

Whether it’s virtual or in-person, McDonald said it’s critical for organizations like theirs to engage with the community, because it helps to reach the people who need the organization’s support. It also helps to build relationships and trust.

That seems ambitious,” McDonald said. “But this can’t be achieved without community connections and collaboration. So, it’s really beneficial, of course, for the entrepreneurs to connect with the many free resources that are available to them to help them succeed. But it’s also really important for us to achieve our mission because we cannot do that work alone.”

Napoli said they never take the community for granted. The orchestra wants to give back to everyone in Cleveland, whether it be in the suburbs, inner city and elsewhere.

“In short, without Cleveland and Clevelanders, The Cleveland Orchestra would not exist, plain and simple,” Napoli said. “So, it is always our goal and part of our mission to give back to the community who supports us, to be part of the community, to be of value to the community and to enrich the community in every way we can. We know how lucky we are to have such a supportive community.”

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