A key time for Foundations on the Hill 2020

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Each spring, Philanthropy Ohio members and staff travel to Washington D.C. for Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). This year on March 9 – 11, eight foundation members from across the state shared their stories with elected officials and the value of philanthropy in their districts – which is now very significant as our communities are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hill visit agenda was robust and included meetings with the staff and offices of Rep. Davidson, Rep. Stivers, Rep. Chabot, Rep. Kaptur and Rep. Wenstrup. The second day, members met with staff members of Sen. Portman, Sen. Brown, Rep. Johnson, Rep. Joyce, Rep. Ryan, Rep. Gonzalez, Rep. Fudge, Rep. Balderson and Rep. Beatty provided an update on the importance of charitable giving, expanding the IRA Charitable Rollover and Come Home Awards.


This was my first year participating in FOTH, which was an experience I will not forget. Setting up meetings with congressional members and staff is one thing but being in D.C., on the Hill, advocating for issues I care about was amazing. Connecting closer with our members and others in the philanthropic sector was an added bonus at the PolicyWorks Institute. To have the opportunity to learn what other philanthropy-serving organizations and their members are doing around policy and advocacy and how they are applying an equity lens in everything they do was helpful in being forward-thinking in my role as Philanthropy Ohio’s policy manager.

The weather was high-60s to low-70s and the cherry blossoms were blooming, which made returning to Ohio a little dreadful. With more than 21,000 steps logged over the course of three days, I was ready to return home and relax, resting assured that I did my part in leaving a valuable message about philanthropy in Ohio to our congressional delegation. All in all a great first trip and I cannot wait until the next FOTH.

I asked our members who attended FOTH to also share their reflections, which you can read below.

This year was my third time as part of the Philanthropy Ohio delegation to Capitol Hill to inform elected officials and their staff on issues that impact philanthropy and our nonprofit partners. Given the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, this year was certainly different; we were greeted by each office with lots of hand sanitizer, elbow bumps and appropriate distance across the table. Despite these precautions, our advocacy efforts were extremely valuable, both for us to discuss key issues important to us and also those key issues important to our legislators. We brought the importance of Universal Charitable Deductions to our conversations, and even though they are not top priority in D.C. right now, Senator Brown's staff encouraged us to keep the constant drumbeat so that there is record of the many organizations concerned about charitable giving. Additionally, given Senator Portman's passion for ending human trafficking, his staff was heartened to learn that the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland​ has provided the Collaboration to End Human Trafficking support since its inception in 2007.
-Adrienne Mundorf, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland


The opportunity to be part of Foundations on the Hill is exciting and humbling. Exciting from the standpoint that we have the chance to directly share our ideas about philanthropy and voice our concerns about what impacts our industry to our legislative leaders. Yet humbling that we, as a country, are free enough to walk the halls of our government to speak our minds.

FOTH is more than a chance to interact with our national leaders as it’s also an opportunity to bond with our fellow foundation leaders to discuss and advance the issues that improve our communities. If you get a change to attend, I would highly recommend you make the investment in both the time and resources. It’s your chance to help educate our legislative leaders and set the future course of philanthropy.
-Brian Wagner, Muskingum County Community Foundation

FOTH is a unique opportunity to share the important role of the Ohio philanthropic sector in a unified voice. Meeting with Ohio legislators gave us a chance to advocate on key issues that impact our sector, presented opportunities for foundations to showcase relevant initiatives/projects and continued to build relationships between government and philanthropy.

This was my second year joining FOTH. I took away so much more this year having one under my belt. The meetings with legislators are a key part of the trip but equally valuable are the connections and conversations you have along the way with your peers that hopefully lead to stronger partnerships and collaborations in the future.
-CiCi Kaltz, Cleveland Browns Foundation

My first Foundations on the Hill and PolicyWorks Institute will certainly go down as a memorable one. While the novel coronavirus continued to surge throughout the world, it was unclear at the time how our nation would be impacted or be forced to respond. At the onset of the week, as some of the first confirmed cases were being announced, accidental handshakes were quickly replaced with bumping elbows, but just a minor inconvenience at worst. PolicyWorks workshops offered relevant and timely information around public policy, engagement and advocacy. I especially appreciated the bend toward ensuring racial equity throughout all policy – whether transportation, housing, education, employment, health care, etc.

Likewise, my first FOTH was equally as memorable and insightful. Coming from nearly a decade working in a congressional office, and this being the first time sitting on this side of the policy table, I found a renewed sense of how important and impactful this work is. 

As I sit here today in my home office/kitchen table adjusting to our new normal, however, I would have never foreseen that our nation would be brought to our knees in just a few short weeks. But the lessons learned around collective response and the need for and impact of advocacy are more apparent now than ever before. While the workshops were informative and the Hill visits impactful, I think the real takeaway for me rests in philanthropy’s tremendous role in collective response in supporting community during times of need. As the virus began to spread and the crisis compound daily, during FOTH you could feel philanthropy’s role being primed to respond – and a few weeks later, those conversations turned to action, setting up emergency response funds, hosting webinars to learn and share and targeting resources that will ultimately save lives.  
-Nicholas P. Turner, The Nord Family Foundation


The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation is a small-staffed private foundation whose responsive grantmaking program serves Northeast Ohio, primarily Cuyahoga County. We learned early on that philanthropy alone cannot sustain programs and services that our nonprofit partners provide. Policies and systems need to provide the structure, framework and financial resources to ensure our community thrives, with philanthropy playing the role as catalyst, supporter or partner. Because of this, we participate in Foundations on the Hill.

FOTH is a two-day event that brings together hundreds of foundation leaders from across the country to meet with Congress, to raise our collective voices to inform and educate Congress about philanthropy; create visibility for philanthropy; advocate on issues affecting foundations and communities; and encourage Congress to view foundations as a resource and partner on key public policy issues.

The PolicyWorks Institute, the first two days, is the primary opportunity for us to take a “deep dive” to strengthen our policy and advocacy work. We learn from legislators and governmental departments on current issues as well as tips on advocacy. There are three lessons I have learned from participating in three years of FOTH:

  • It’s important to be empowered to meet with our representatives on a one-to-one basis;
  • I’m reminded that our voices matter, making phone calls and writing emails to legislators is now part of our everyday work; and
  • It is our duty as taxpayers to educate those that work for us on the policies that affect our communities.

-Holley Fowler Martens, Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation


Philanthropy has an important role to play supporting communities, and Foundations on the Hill is one way we help connect funders to elected officials through advocacy work. Please reach out to me if you would like us to connect to your elected officials – we’re here to help.

Vincent Coleman
Manager, Public Policy


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