Ralph Smithers, Jr., Assistant Vice President, Diversity and Community Relations Motorists Insurance Group


You’ve been at Motorists for nearly 30 years. Tell us about the roles you’ve held there and how they’ve helped you be successful in your current job.

Although I’ve been at Motorists for most of my career, I haven’t been in the same job for more than four years, which keeps things interesting.

After my freshman year at Ohio State, I applied to work at an insurance company and loved the work so much that I changed my major. Right before I graduated from college, I applied at Motorists. I have been here almost ever since.

Early in my career I was in underwriting, which looks at applications for insurance, vets them and makes sure they meet our guidelines. My customer service background and skills in reviewing, applying judgment and being able to say “no” when necessary have been helpful in my current job. In all of my roles, I try to work with people and be supportive even if we can’t fund something today. I always tell people that a “no” today doesn’t mean a “no” forever.


The Motorists Foundation focuses on “improving communities and families, promoting education and encouraging wellness” with a “commitment to helping children succeed, eradicating cancer and supporting industry initiatives.” Can you share the ways in which you partner with nonprofits to fulfill this mission in Central Ohio?

We do a lot in our neighborhood in each of these areas. For example, in the area of education, we supported the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s capital campaign and support their programming. At Cristo Ray, we provide charitable donations, employ their students and also have an associate serving as a board member. The Columbus Museum of Art is across the street from us and we support them creating access for families who otherwise might not be able to visit by allowing it to be open for free on Sundays. We helped Ronald McDonald House to build a new wing for the families they serve, making it the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world.

For our wellness focus, we are supportive of numerous walks, from Komen and the African American Male Wellness Walk to the March of Dimes, and many others. We also have supported the Ohio Cancer Research, which provides funding for cancer researchers.


For your education focus, Motorists support numerous scholarships. Tell me how students can apply for those opportunities?

We provide scholarship support through places like the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges (OFIC) and The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation, which focuses on students aspiring to be in the insurance industry. Applicants apply to these organizations who administer the funds we provide. A full list of the scholarships we support can be found on our website: https://www.motoristsinsurancegroup.com/who-we-are/giving-back/.


Your foundation donates $1 million to charities annually. Can you share how the foundation board decides which nonprofits to fund?

I typically meet with various nonprofit leaders and fundraisers and report on those meetings quarterly. We receive requests from around the county and we are happy to review those. We work to find ways to make things work when we can.

A significant amount of our budget’s bigger dollar items are set in place annually, like our United Way campaign. We have a group of associates that review all of the other applications and then we meet as a group to discuss them. Everything here is done by consensus, meaning we just don’t take a vote. We really talk through all of our support.

We are shifting how we review these requests, and by May I am expecting to have our review committee mostly staffed by the leaders of our associate resource groups. In my role, I also handle diversity and we want to make sure our philanthropic decisions are aligned with our diversity strategy. This review committee makes recommendations to the CEO, CFO and Chief Legal Officer for final approval.


The Motorists Foundation has four deadlines for charitable requests to be submitted to you annually (the first of February, May, August and November). Do you suggest nonprofits apply earlier in the year or are your donations a consistent amount quarterly? 

I encourage our partners to apply in November for funding in the following year. This helps us plan our year. We don’t have unlimited resources and it can be hard for us to review everything in one meeting. However, we do like to bring all requests to our committee.


You recently contributed to the new Social Justice Park that opened last fall. Tell me why that was a good fit for your giving priorities. 

The park is right across the street from us, and is the first Social Justice Park in the country. The park has points of engagement with several of our board members who are community leaders and were involved in the creation of this park, including Yvette McGee Brown and Archie Griffin. Archie is our longest serving board member.


Your company prioritizes giving where your associates are involved. Tell us about how volunteers and board members at Motorists are placed.

I tend to take the lead on placing board members, and we have a team approach on volunteer efforts. Our executive team tends to find their own passions and initiates these board memberships on their own. I can tell them who would like a board member from Motorists if they need ideas. I tend to look for people who are leaders, but not always executive leaders, who are passionate about a cause and will work hard.

We automated our volunteer management system recently and that’s been really helpful to identify opportunities.

Overall, we do prefer to fund partners where our associates are engaged. We don’t always have someone on the board of funded partners, but often we do.


Is there anything else that would be helpful to share with nonprofits looking to create partnerships with Motorists?

We never see any bad causes. All of the requests for support that we receive are worthy, but we have to pick the ones that give us the best alignment with our organization. Sometimes we have to decline a request, but I always share that a “no” might just be a “not now.” Sometimes we need to get more associates engaged before we can provide support. We try to be as clear and helpful as possible. I’m always happy to talk to anyone trying to learn more and see if we can find synergies.


How can someone get more involved with your resource groups?

We have seven resource groups and we are in the process of linking causes with these associate resource groups. Nonprofits can come to our lunch and learns to educate associates and get them involved. I am happy to serve as the point person to help make introductions to these groups: 

  1. African American

  2. Asian Pacific

  3. Early-Career Professionals

  4. LGBTQ

  5. Veterans

  6. Women

  7. Working Parents

We are really proud that we are going to have meaningful integration between our associate resource groups and foundation committee. All of the leaders of the resource groups are excited to be serving on our foundation committee, which reviews charitable giving requests.


Where would you suggest a potential nonprofit partner go to learn more? 

Our website is a good place to start.

Vanessa Van Atta, Manager of Community Relations and Philanthropy, Alliance Data

You’ve been in your role at Alliance Data for four years now, but your background is in the nonprofit world. Tell me what you have learned in your past positions that’s helping you today. 

Because of my background in the nonprofit field, I think I value our relationship with our nonprofits more. I understand the nuances of the nonprofit world and can find a good balance of corporate needs and nonprofit realities.

I also know the amount of work that goes into nonprofit jobs every day, and I think it helps me to have supportive conversations both internally and externally.

For our nonprofit partnerships, I try to start with open conversations so we can brainstorm and gain alignment on synergies. Often it allows us to provide more support than what they originally were asking for while also limiting unnecessary paperwork. I’ve found that having open conversations leads to deeper relationships.


I think sometimes Alliance Data is mysterious to people. Tell us more about what your company does.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, and led by EVP and President Melisa Miller, Alliance Data’s card services business develops market-leading private label, co-brand, and business credit card programs for many of the world's most recognizable brands. Through our deliberately different and measurably superior approach, we give our partners deep, actionable insights about their customers that drive unmatched results and lasting loyalty.

Our commitment to innovation and cutting-edge capabilities also ensures an exceptional customer experience, helping our partners increase sales and provide greater value to their customers. Our family of associates is driven to grow together, and we are proud to be part of the Alliance Data enterprise (NYSE: ADS), an S&P 500, FORTUNE 500 and FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For company headquartered in Plano, Texas.

Well-known clients include DSW, ULTA Beauty, Wayfair, Lane Bryant, Meijer, Pier 1 Imports, The Children’s Place, Pottery Barn, Toyota and more. 


How do you support nonprofits across your footprint?

I administer the charitable giving and volunteerism for all of our card services business. This includes 13 offices in the United States and a customer care center we just opened in Bangalore, India.

These 14 offices employ 9,000 associates, half of which are based in Columbus.

I partner closely with site leaders in these locations because they have a better idea of what local partnerships they would like to pursue. I help them understand our expectations of nonprofit partners and what we are looking to achieve. Together we work to identify the best nonprofits in each market for us.


Can you share more about your new focus on helping nonprofits with their own data? 

It’s called Data for Good. We know how much utilizing data can grow our clients’ businesses. If our nonprofits have rich data and know how to use it, their potential increases exponentially. We know nonprofits don’t always have the resources to get there and grow the way we know they can.

A good example of this is our partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. A team of our experts spent nine months helping them with donor segmentation modeling so they can better target their donors. They were able to take what they learned from Alliance Data staff and integrate a new process to be more effective. Our teams continue to stay connected and provide additional help and support as needed.


What other types of charitable support do you provide nonprofits?

We do an open giving campaign each year where associates support causes about which they are passionate through workplace giving. Last year Alliance Data and our associates gave $3.8 million back to our communities through this campaign.

In addition to matching these associate gifts, we give back in the three core areas: children, education and hunger. This year we are also looking to do more in early childhood education. Here is a little more about each area we support:

  • Children. We focus on basic needs including health, safety and well-being. An example of this is the $400,000 donation we provided Nationwide Children’s Hospital for data architecture that links all pediatric and research data sources. We are also proud to partner with Directions for Youth and Families and their afterschool programming along with the Community Shelter Board, helping get homeless families rehoused quickly at the VanBuren shelter.

  • Education. Our goal is improved educational outcomes for underserved youth. Here we work with great partners like the Columbus Early Learning Center and City Year to support their work at Mifflin High School, which is near our Easton home office.

  • Hunger. We provide access to healthy food and long-term solutions to fight food insecurity. Throughout our offices we partner with foodbanks in all communities where we have associates. Locally we support Lutheran Social Services and its pantry system.

Along with these three focus areas, Alliance Data also has national partnerships to be more efficient. An example of this is Habitat for Humanity where we can invest both locally and nationally.

Do you have deadlines annually for applications?

We discuss applications each month. I review all submissions and make recommendations to Jami Dewolf, our SVP and Chief Marketing Officer.

How are your volunteers and nonprofit board members placed?

When we invest in a nonprofit, our expectation is that we will support them beyond just financial donations. In addition to our financial support, we leverage the expertise of our associates via Team Alliance Data.

Team Alliance Data provides ways for our associates to get involved in the community via general volunteerism, board service, committee work and skills-based volunteerism.

I serve as the conduit between our associates and the community to make sure they are connected to organizations about which they are passionate. I work with the nonprofits to see what skills they need in board roles and serve as a matchmaker for these board positions – providing introductions and working until I find the right fit.

Where can a nonprofit partner go to learn more? 

Our website is a good place to learn more (www.knowmoresellmore.com).
If an organization is interested in applying for funding, please email us at GiveBack@alliancedata.com.

Leah Shrom, External Relations Director, State Auto Insurance Companies

How long have you been in your position at State Auto, and what are your responsibilities?

I have been with State Auto for over 11 years, and in this role since 2014. My background is in IT, so I started here as a project manager. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to move around. When this position opened up my boss at the time thought I would be a good fit, and I jumped on it.

My title is External Relations Director. Our office manages our partnerships with nonprofits in Columbus and throughout the country. Personally, I work with Columbus and Indianapolis and others in my office help support our other regional offices.

I manage the State Auto Foundation – our company foundation governed by State Auto senior leaders and our office. I also help facilitate the programs we offer for associates including matching gifts, volunteerism and corporate giving. Our office also collaborates with other internal departments on diversity and inclusion, wellness and leadership development. We try to leverage the resources and expertise of our external relationships in these areas.


Supporting the community is a key component of your company. Tell me about that.

In 1921, our founder, Bob Pein, encouraged associates and agents to “plant themselves firmly” in the communities they serve. To this day, it’s a mission we take seriously, not only because it’s part of who we are, but because it’s simply the right thing to do. We are about to celebrate our 100th anniversary, so this history is very important to us.

In 2014 when our current Chairman, President and CEO, Mike LaRocco, started, he really amplified the importance of giving back to our community. He serves on the board of the American Heart Association, chaired the Central Ohio Heart Walk in 2017, and was also recognized as a Person of Vision by Prevent Blindness Ohio earlier this year.

Our associates generously support three annual giving campaigns: The United Way, Mid-Ohio Foodbank and American Heart Association. We also organize volunteer opportunities and drives throughout the year to collect items for local organizations such as food, coats, hats, gloves and school supplies.

In addition, we support grassroots efforts including our service to Broad Street Methodist Church and its Manna Café where we cook and serve meals once a month, funded by donations given during our annual Christmas Corner display.


You shared that The State Auto Foundation focus for charitable giving includes poverty, food, education and housing, especially in underserved areas.  What is the most significant nonprofit partnership you have in each of these four areas?

Educationally, we have a significant partnership with Champion Middle School on the Near East Side. We are located right down the street and enjoy helping year round in many different ways. We've worked with Project Mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters, we created a community garden at Champion Middle School as part of our American Heart Association partnership, and we continually work with the leadership of the school to assess needs and help where we can.

In the housing area, Homeport is one of our main partners. For three years we have been sponsoring their Strengthening Community Bus Tours in support of their mission to provide safe, decent and affordable housing-revitalizing in neighborhoods.

The Mid-Ohio FoodBank’s Operation Feed Campaign and the Manna Café are our two primary food partnerships, and The United Way is our primary partner focusing on poverty. Here we run a national campaign annually to support local United Ways where we also tie in significant volunteer opportunities to get associates involved.


Do you have charitable giving guidelines you can share with nonprofits who do work in these areas?

We don’t have hard guidelines. Our funding typically develops through informal conversations to get to know the organization and its mission. We talk about what they are looking to achieve in the community, alignment to our focus areas, and ways we can provide support – financially and with our associates as volunteers and leaders.


Are there deadlines for charitable requests to be considered?

We accept written requests throughout the year, and our foundation meets quarterly. Annually, we budget in August for the following calendar year. It often helps to visit the facilities and see the organization in action as part of the decision making process.


You are headquartered in Columbus, but provide charitable giving from your regional offices as well. Is your giving focus the same in these markets?

We share the company’s community focus of poverty, education, housing and food throughout the country, but we recognize that each office area is different and each community has its own challenges. Because of this, our giving sometimes falls outside of those priority areas regionally. For regional support, we typically work with the leaders in regional offices who review requests with us.


How do you place nonprofit board members?

This happens in a few different ways because we want leadership opportunities and good partnerships for our associates. Often we identify what our leaders are passionate about and then match them into the community. These passions tend to align with our four focus areas, but not always. We also investigate committee and advisory roles for our future leaders at State Auto to support their development and contributions to local nonprofit partners.


You offer a matching gifts program to your offer associates. Is there a cap on the number of donations or the amount you will match annually?

Our Jack C. Boyle Matching Gift Program was named after a former associate who left money in his estate to State Auto Insurance “in gratitude for his livelihood and good pension and retirements.” We used that money to seed a matching gifts program for associates. Because of his generosity, each associate can have donations up to $500 matched per year to qualifying 501(c)3 organizations.


Tell me about the paid time you provide associates to volunteer in the community. 

We are proud to share that State Auto associates get up to two days paid time per year to volunteer in the community via our "Invest a Day" program. Associates can use this time to participate in company-sponsored volunteer opportunities or find their own opportunities to volunteer either as individuals or as a team.


Does the State Auto Foundation have a board, and who administers the foundation funds?

The State Auto Foundation was established in 1988. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that administers a trust fund dedicated to other 501(c)3 organizations. The Foundation acts on behalf of the corporate giving interests of the State Auto Insurance Companies.

Our foundation is managed internally, and the foundation board reviews the larger grant requests. Community relations handles events, sponsorships and smaller community initiatives.


Is there anything else you’d like to share the help nonprofits understand how to best partner with you?

Our approach to the community is a very personal one and a big part of the culture at State Auto. We are passionate about our communities and getting our associates involved and doing good. We recognize that we aren’t the biggest organization in town, and really try to “right size” our community investments and develop meaningful relationships to make an impact.

Cathy Lyttle, VP Corporate Communications & Investor Relations Worthington Industries

You have done community work for a long time – tell me about your journey.

A lot of my life and career is intertwined. I always say if you have passion around something there are ways to get involved. That’s the first step. Any organization you feel is doing a good job you get to know it by volunteering – not just jumping into a board position. Find your way that way.

Early in my career, I was saying "yes" to things because of the person asking verses feeling like I can really make a difference. You should really think about how you can contribute. I went on a couple of boards that were small and weren’t operating very well as a board and I didn’t have great experiences. As I matured – and I have to give credit to Leadership Columbus – I realized I could raise my hand to be involved in something but that I didn’t have to be on its board.

I believe in the role of sports in helping a community grow. It’s a place where we can all come together. I helped the Clippers build new ballpark downtown, and also help lead the sale of tickets to bring the Crew here. I was part of the political campaign to get a sales tax passed to get a hockey arena downtown. That one didn’t work out and we had to find another way, but we made it happen.

Throughout my career, I've met awesome people. When I worked at The Chamber, I saw this community as one where you say, “I want to help,” and you can. You raise your hand and you can help. I got to know the community really well – how we think and who the players are.

I met John McConnell and we worked on the Columbus Blue Jackets together and, because of that, I went to Worthington Industries. The Chamber work and community involvement helped me while sitting on the other side of the table when I took over the Worthington Industries Foundation. The board and volunteer service I had done gave me the knowledge of the community and it was helpful in aligning priorities.

Sometimes when I was frustrated at my job, my community work would be the thing that would carry me through a rough week or a bad day. It made me feel like it was a good day when I could jump in on a community issue or help a non-profit, or give good advice to someone. That work stays with you and enhances what you do in your job.

You have to be engaged – you can’t just go to work and go home. You have to get out of office and do things – it makes you better at your job and a better person.

Tell me about your best board experience.

One board that I enjoyed was The Franklin Park Conservatory because I really liked the organization and Executive Director, so it became one of the best experiences I have had. We thought big thoughts. There was quick engagement – I got my hands dirty. We jumped into a capital campaign and I helped tell the story.

My code is that once you’ve served in a leadership role on a board at an organization you shouldn’t stick around on the board too much after that. You can still be supportive but you should let someone else step up and do it their way. I was only on the Conservatory board a year or two after my leadership role. After leaving the board I stayed engaged in other ways. I Chaired Hat Day and was involved in the current campaign. I continue to give and help raise money because I believe in it.

I’ve noticed you often mentor young professionals. What advice do you like to give young professionals?

I feel like, with all due respect to my male mentors in the news room and sports, I didn’t have a lot of female mentors. I had some, including my mom, but I didn’t have a lot of female mentors on the job. I think we need each other and so I always advise to look for a mentor, someone who can help guide you. I like to be helpful showing the way or being supportive. We all need someone that taps us on the back and says you are doing a great job or it will be better tomorrow.

I would tell young professionals that you have to be open, and getting out of your comfort zone is an important thing to do. In our careers, we need to say, “I was going to be this…” but somewhere along the way, I realized there are other things I could probably be impactful doing. Don’t just think this is what I trained for, this is my job, this is what I do. Realize that you have the skill set to do some different things. Acknowledge that and be open to those other opportunities.

This is the same for volunteer work. It’s not enough that we come to work and make donations and then go home and think the rest is someone else’s problem. Be curious and open. If you want to learn about something, people’s doors are usually open. They are willing to help. It might be coaching your kid’s ball team or getting involved in the PTA and when you have more time getting more involved with a nonprofit that needs your help. When you are in a position when you can help others it’s important that you do that. I don’t always know the people I reach out to but if I’m interested in something I call or email without knowing them. And I would say I hear back nearly every time.  We all should be helping each other. 

What are the characteristics of successful nonprofit professionals that you have seen? What makes some people really stand out?

Collaboration is used a lot but it’s critical.  I really like seeing an executive in a nonprofit appreciating the importance of connecting the dots to other organizations or community needs. It might not just be their organization that benefits but it can be for a greater good to connect to an additional organization or community issue. I also like people to be prepared. If you are coming in to talk to me don’t ask me about our foundation and our giving – you can find that information online. Instead, say this is what I’m thinking might fit with your giving or I need advice on how I might connect with another organization.  Maybe you want to discuss an idea or strategy and receive feedback.  That’s all good.

Being transparent, ethical, and having high integrity is important too. How leaders treat their staff and the people around them is always a good clue in terms of the health of the organization and if it’s going in the right direction. Good relationships with their board is key too.

You were honored as one of the most influential women to know in business in Columbus, did you ever dream about accomplishing something like that when you were young? 

I never had a five-year plan. I went to college to become a performing arts major and wanted to go to Broadway. I realized those jobs were a dime a dozen and switched majors. My family was involved in news and I thought I might switch to the newsroom.

Most days I feel like I’m just doing my job. I think of myself as a person who loves their community and wants to do good work. Getting recognized is nice but I never really dreamed about it.

A male mentor of mine told me once, “You are a staff person and you are working for someone. There is always someone to report to even if you are President of the organization.”  That stuck with me and it’s the way I approach my job and that keeps me honest. 

Tell me about Worthington Industries focus for charitable giving?

The Worthington Industries Foundation has donated more than $11 million to various non-profit organizations over the past 10 years in the areas of safety, health, community, and environment. We aid community causes in education, civic organizations, health and human services, and arts and culture. 

Are there any standard deadlines for support?

We don’t have a formalized process but we want people to know our fiscal year is June 1 to May 31 and we take grant requests once a quarter. We take them anytime. The website is more for requests that come from outside the Columbus area. In Columbus, we are accessible for personal conversations.

 How do you determine which nonprofits you will place board members?

We don’t have a ton of people on boards but we do try to align board placements with our giving. When we give big gifts we want to find the right person for what the organization needs. For example, they might need someone with a background in finance, HR, marketing, etc. We go to our senior leadership group and see if we can use this as a professional development opportunity for someone. If our executives demonstrate a desire to be on board we will talk to them about what might work for them.

How is special event support requested and which events are considered more favorably than others?

Special event support requests usually come from partnerships because we can’t do them all. When requests come in there is a menu of items we go through - is that an organization we have been aligned with? Do we have a board member? Is this event our only contribution to the organization? What other ways can we support them?

We also have legacy partners and organizations where we provide a combination of an operating grant and/or special event support. We are careful about signing on for special events because filling tables can be a full time job, but if it’s the best way to support the organization, we do it.

Do you consider support for Capital Campaigns?

Yes, we consider capital support but it comes down to community need and seeing if it is the right fit for us. We are always open to new ideas. Often capital support is for nonprofits serving a large part of the community and doing good work for social services, healthcare, and education. We also focus on the quality of life in our community like the Columbus Zoo, Clippers Ballpark and the Columbus Children’s Theatre.

Where should we go for more information?

Our website has our community impact report and overview of what we fund so it’s a good place to start.

If your organization meets our funding criteria and you would like to request funding, requests can also be emailed to WIFoundation@WorthingtonIndustries.com, but we prefer a conversation prior and if you are in Central Ohio, we’d prefer in person and reserve the on-line requests for out of town organizations.



Patti Eshman, AVP of Community Relations, Grange Insurance

Grange associates are known for being so giving of their time. Tell me what you think motivates all of your volunteers in the community?  

It starts at the top - from the CEO on down we all do volunteer work. We provide information on a regular basis to our associates and share the volunteer opportunities and link them to nonprofits to learn more about what they do. It’s part of the culture here. Our associates feel strongly about doing something which I appreciate so much.

With a younger workforce, they often have more time than money and they also want to know what they can do to help. If it’s volunteerism they are all about that. Even over the past two years, our volunteerism has increased at staggering levels. It’s amazing. For example, we partnered with a local poor performing elementary school and outlined the statistics about the failure rates and poverty rates. You paint the picture for why the volunteers are needed and that story motivates our associates to help tutor at Fairwood. We have found our community work is also a great recruitment tool.

Grange offers up to two full paid days off per year, and we have an accolade cart where associates can nominate each other for doing great things. We created levels of rewards for associates when they volunteer at one event, five events, etc. They don’t do it for the recognition and many give their time well beyond the two paid days or the reward levels we provide.

What is the process for a nonprofit to get a grange board member placed with them?

Schedule an appointment with us. I meet with anyone - even if our funding focus doesn’t fit and we may not be able to fund them I am always happy to meet. Organizations need to start a relationship first before we will place a board member. We need a Grange officer on the board to invest significantly in the nonprofit.

Can you share why the Grange Audubon Center was such a good project for you?

Grange is close to the Whittier Peninsula so it was a good match. We wanted to help in our backyard and provide a unique space in the city where you can see different things from each view – the city one side, conservation on the other side. There is no other Audubon Center like it. We provided a $4 million investment and our former CEO, Phil Urban, was integral in steering that campaign to its success. 

What is your primary focus for charitable giving and do you have deadlines annually for applications?

We have a newly created Donor Advised Fund at The Columbus Foundation, and we don’t have formal deadlines right now but we are considering it for the future. For now, our focus is still on Health and Human Services and United Way of Central Ohio is our largest recipient because we provide a dollar for dollar match on our employee campaign. Other key partners include the Ronald McDonald House, Maryhaven, YMCA, YWCA, American Red Cross, Directions for Youth, St. Vincent’s and many others. 

What about capital and special events - how are those considered?

Typically, capital campaign and event support requests are nonprofits with which we have a longstanding relationship. 

You offer in-kind printing to nonprofits. Is there special focus for that and special deadlines? What do you not print?

We recognize that in-kind, pro-bono printing is as good as providing cash to a nonprofit. The fair market value of our printing was $100,000 last year so it is significant. We print programs, save the date cards, marketing materials and other documents that act to help get the message out about nonprofits.

Our first priority is meeting the print needs of the company. We try to cap the monthly nonprofit print jobs so we aren’t overtaxing our print staff.  We don’t do design work so nonprofits need them to have the artwork printer ready. We don’t print non-standard sizes and we have print guidelines we can share with nonprofits. We need six months advance notice for print requests.

Where can people go to learn more about green just work in the community?

Our website is a good place to start (https://www.grangeinsurance.com/careers?a=#community) It describes activities in the community and some of the organizations we support.

Any advice to share for young professionals?

I never had a plan like some people I knew in law school. I have learned that you may lose some really interesting opportunities if you don’t have more of an open mind. Every job I’ve had since law school leads me to the next one. It was hard work and distinguishing myself at one job where someone I interacted with ended up being my employer at the next job.

Work hard, have a decent work-life balance, distinguish yourself, have an open mind, don’t be afraid of failure or disappointment. It will come somehow and someway but you will get through it.


Terri Donlin Huesman, Executive Vice President Osteopathic Heritage Foundations

Congratulations on your recent promotion! Tell me what you like best about the work you do.

For nearly 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of working to advance health and quality life in central and southeastern Ohio, and advancing osteopathic medicine in Ohio and across the country.  From the beginning, the Foundations’ approach has been proactive, strategic and with intent.  This approach has allowed us to identify significant and/or emerging community needs and work collaboratively with agencies best suited to address the identified issues.  What I like best – many things, including the opportunity to work diverse groups of individuals and agencies:  nationally, and in Appalachian, rural and urban areas. 

The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation is one of the largest in central Ohio. Tell me about the history of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations - how was the original funding obtained to populate the foundation? 

The “heritage” of the foundations come from owning and operating a hospital system in central and southeastern Ohio, Doctors Hospital and Doctors Hospital of Nelsonville, respectively, which served as training sites for osteopathic physicians.  The Foundation structure has been in existing since the early 1960’s, and in the early 1990s the Boards determined that the communities could be served through philanthropic organizations committed to improving health and quality of and advancing osteopathic medicine. 

In 1998 the Foundations’ Boards approved the Doctors Hospital and Doctors Hospital of Nelsonville asset sale to OhioHealth, a large highly respected non-profit health care system.  From the asset sale, there was an influx of funds into the existing foundation structure.  The Osteopathic Heritage Foundations includes two separately incorporated foundations: the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville.

What is your funding focus today?

The Foundation’s mission is to improve the health and quality of life in the community through education, research, and service consistent with our osteopathic heritage.  We advance this mission through strategic funding priorities and initiatives, including primary care and research on pressing health issues, healthy aging, healthy food access, behavioral health, access to oral health care, among others.  The Foundations website is a good place to look for current funding priorities (http://www.osteopathicheritage.org).

We also have other funding partnership, including capital improvement grants with The Columbus Foundation, Signature Impact Funding, and community leadership funding.

You have a broader geographical funding area than most central Ohio funders.  I know you have done great work in Appalachia and other areas. Tell me about the counties in Ohio you support and why that broad support is important to you.

The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville’s service area includes ten (10) counties in southeastern Ohio, and it funds primarily community health and quality of life initiatives.  The Nelsonville Foundation has many funding partnerships in the region, including the Rocky Community Improvement Fund, the 317 Board (local ADAMH) serving Athens, Hocking and Vinton counties, and Komen Columbus. 

We are part two Appalachian funder networks:  the Appalachian Ohio Funders Network (focused on Ohio’s Appalachian counties) and Appalachia Funders Network (focused on five states in central Appalachia).   Since we don’t have offices in the region, it’s important that we are connected through various networks. That said, we spend a lot of time in the region – meeting our partners and grantees where the work is happening.

How can a nonprofit be considered for your Signature Impact Initiative Funding? Are there deadlines for this support?

While the mission and vision of organizations receiving a Signature Impact Initiative funding award are different, each shares important characteristics: a history of high performance, effectively serving some of the most vulnerable populations; a clear and sustainable plan for building on success; and positioned to successfully expand and strengthen essential health and social services. These are considered through an invitation to submit. 

Do you have grant making deadlines?

Generally, the Foundations don’t accept unsolicited proposals, rather, we proactively approach partners to work in areas of our funding focus.

Tell me about your investments in Community Leadership programming.

For a number of years, the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville has supported the Leadership Athens, a program of the Athens County Foundation.  Each year, emerging and seasoned leaders explore economic, political, social and cultural landscape through discussions of current issues and conversations with community leaders.  This is a great partnership with the Athens County Foundation – promoting community leadership and stewardship. 

 Where can someone interested in approaching you for support go for more information?

More information, and to sign-up to receive our electronic communications, please go to our website at www.osteoapthicheriage.org

Dale Heydlauff, Senior Vice President - Corporate Communications, President - American Electric Power Foundation

You have personally volunteered to serve in many leadership roles for nonprofits as have Nick and Donna Akins and others – how do you select the nonprofits for which you or your Executive Team will serve in leadership roles?

They typically choose themselves and I occasionally help recruit them. One of AEP’s core cultural principles is giving back. Our business thrives and prospers when our communities do and that has manifested in board service. If you are an officer at AEP you are expected to serve on at least one nonprofit board. I match them as needed but typically they have a good idea of what they are interested in doing. I track and report this involvement to the CEO, and share where there are holes in service to determine where we need someone to serve.

Does having a board member from AEP serving on a nonprofit board increase the likelihood they will receive funding?

Where we make significant gifts we almost always have corporate executives serving on that board, especially if it is outside of our giving priorities. Gifts outside of our funding focus areas usually happen because of relationships.

 How are volunteers requested from AEP for nonprofit needs?

Most volunteerism comes through corporate headquarters. We are heavily influenced by the interests of our employees. We currently have 16 company approved campaigns in Columbus. They all have executive champions (officers), and community champions (employees that lead campaigns).  We give these groups access to the lobby for fundraising, the ability to solicit employees, and we give them seed money for things like t-shirts and hats.  The majority of those 16 campaigns don’t align with corporate philanthropic priorities (which is STEM education and basic needs) but our associates are highly engaged in them. The largest campaign we do outside of United Way is Operation Feed for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. 

How are in-kind gifts requested from AEP and what might those entail?

It’s important to know that we do not provide free electricity, ever.  We sometimes provide grant money to help pay for electric bills but we don’t provide it in-kind.  Most of the in-kind we do is donating suites in athletic facilities to nonprofits for auctions.

Your focus for giving includes education (with a STEM focus), the environment and human services, such as hunger, housing, health, and safety.  What has been the most impactful grant you have made in these areas and why?

For a long time, we didn’t have a signature program but now we have Credits Count. We have invested over $14 million in this program that provides college level STEM education to high poverty, urban and rural high school students across our service territory. We did a pilot at Columbus State Community College where Columbus City high school students can earn up to 30 community college credits free of charge. When they graduate from high school, if they’ve obtained a minimum 2.5 GPA in their college level courses, we also give additional scholarship funds to help with continued college education.

You mention economic development grants – are those part of the focus above or separate from?

This is a completely different pool of funds that are not managed by me because they are regulated dollars. We have an economic development team that works with government and other private sector officials to attract new businesses because, ultimately, we want to grow our service territory too. You can learn more about that work here: http://www.aepsustainability.com/investment/development/

You primarily support nonprofits within AEP’s eleven service territories (Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma – what is the process for requesting support outside of central Ohio).  How are those funding decisions made?

Our operating company presidents and/or their Vice President for External Affairscoordinate the charitable giving and volunteer programming outside of Columbus. The Presidents can be found on our website (http://www.aep.com/about/leadership/regionalpresidents.aspx) and a list of addresses to submit service territory grant requests are also on the website (https://www.aep.com/community/ourgiving/CorporateGivingGuidelines/).

How is the process started to request funding from AEP corporate and/or the foundation?

These are both accepted electronically by invitation only.

Our budget for corporate contributions is as large as the AEP Foundation budget and almost all of that money goes to Columbus. Corporate requests can be submitted at any time. Corporate funding provides operating support and event sponsorship.

Foundation support is primarily for capital, program and endowment gifts. The Foundation Board meets two times a year. There is a March 1 deadline for the May meeting and an August 1st deadline for the October meeting.

Our annual Foundation giving budget is 15% of the corpus balance.

What is the difference between requesting support from AEP corporate and AEP Ohio?  

We talk a lot. Since AEP is headquartered in Columbus the lines can get a little blurry. To a large extent AEP corporate focuses on Central Ohio/Columbus and AEP Ohio focuses largely outside of the Central Ohio area in other parts of Ohio.

How are requests for capital support approached?

We provide budgetary guidelines to operating companies so they know what they can anticipate annually from the foundation. Capital requests across the eleven state service areas all come to me for review by the foundation. The operating company Presidents prioritize/rank order them. I also provide a recommendation based on the budget amount available at the time. Multi-year commitments to capital campaigns generally do not exceed five years.

Tell me about your matching gifts program.

We provide a 50 cent match for every dollar employees donate to the United Way.  We also provide a dollar for dollar match for employee gifts to colleges/universities, up to $1,000.

For episodic major global natural disasters employees often approach us to run a campaign where we match employee donations dollar for dollar, up to $50,000. For employees who are victims of natural disasters themselves, we provide emergency assistance grants of up to $5,000 in partnership with the Salvation Army. This program is funded by employee contributions through payroll deduction.

What are some of the traits of the best fundraisers you have worked with?

It’s all about relationships in the end. They have invested the time to get to know their donors and have done their research before their first meeting. Fundraisers should understand the company/individuals giving priorities. They have board members. They also need to cultivate them and find alignment. It’s about bringing people together, listening and adjusting and putting the puzzle pieces together based on your research and relationships to find a win-win.

What do you think are the biggest issues facing nonprofits today?


The people I consider to be most talented Executive Directors are getting ready to retire with no clear successor in their ranks. This needs to be an issue boards deal with - succession planning is the role of a nonprofit board - and not many nonprofits have a clear succession plan. Board members need to ensure nonprofits are doing the same thing they would do in their corporate positions. From what I have seen, internal succession planning doesn’t seem to happen, which can be disruptive. Often new leaders are brought in from outside of the nonprofit.

In addition to Executive Director turnover, there are not many super stars in fundraising for nonprofits. The best of them seem to move around a lot. Nonprofits need to pay good ones well so they stay.

 Where can people go to learn more about your philanthropy?

You can learn a lot from our giving reports online that list all of our donations https://www.aep.com/community/reports

More about our foundation can be found online at https://www.aep.com/community/ourgiving/aepfoundation/

Our corporate giving guidelines can also be found online at https://www.aep.com/community/GivingBack

Steven Fields - Vice President, Director of Community Engagement and President, The Huntington Foundation at Huntington Bancshares

Huntington has branches in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, do you provide financial support to nonprofits in all of your service areas?

We provide the opportunity for financial support in all regions where our colleagues live, work and play. Each region has its own strategic goals and objectives so nonprofits looking for funding should start conversations with the local leadership team first.  We then work with these local teams to invite nonprofits to submit formal requests for support.

When are grant request due?

We look at all requests submitted for consideration on a monthly basis. Ideally we would like to have a four to five month lead time on requests. We pull the submissions for review on the 15th of every month, including those from different regions.

 What's the process difference for grants under $5,000 vs grants over $5,000?

The timing for submission and approval process is the same but there are two different links on our website for these groups. Requests over $5,000 require more application materials than the requests under $5,000. For service areas outside of Ohio, we ask that requests are directed by the local Huntington representatives to the online portal for support.

 How should nonprofits request fundraising event support?

Currently event support requests start with email or phone conversations and don’t go through the online portal. For service areas outside of Ohio, we ask that requests are directed by the local representatives to the online portal for support.

What's your process for placing Huntington associates on nonprofit boards?

I equate my role as that of Match.com. Nonprofits approach us with a request for a board member and, if it fits our focus, we ask them a series of questions around what skillsets they are looking for, etc. I then provide two or three potential candidates and ask the nonprofit and the Huntington associate to interview each other to find the best fit for the opportunity. We know that the value of time and expertise our associates provide to nonprofits is very meaningful, and we work hard to be sure the match works.

Outside of Ohio, our regional teams work with that Huntington colleague to help them through the process as well. It’s also important to share that just because you have a Huntington board member it doesn’t guarantee funds from us but it does increase the likelihood of support.

Tell us about your focus for giving. 

Huntington supports areas that improve self-sufficiency and quality of life with a focus on affordable housing, economic development, and financial literacy.

We recently have been working on access grants – providing access to all - and serving neighborhoods that are a desert for resources.  This includes providing access to food, medical care, financial education, etc. For example, Franklinton had no primary medical care and people were using overusing Emergency Rooms. Huntington invested in OhioHealth’s Mobile Wellness on Wheels unit that comes to the local YMCA three times a week to help patients be proactive in their healthcare.

Any advice for nonprofits looking for support?

It’s all about relationships. We fund people we trust and know are doing good work. We encourage nonprofits to let us know what you are doing so come and meet with us. We have an open door policy - let us learn more about you.

 Where can someone who is interested learn more?

Our website is a good place to start: https://www.huntington.com/Community/corporate-giving, and here is contact information for me and Lindsay in my office:

Steven Fields, Director, Huntington Foundation and Community Engagement
(614) 480-3278

 Lindsay Baker, Community Engagement Coordinator

(614) 480-3720



Bobbie Trittschuh  Community Relations Corporate Affairs Department Honda of America Mfg., Inc.

You have been at Honda for an impressive 20 years which is very rare these days.  Tell me why you love Honda and about your progression into your current role.

Honda is a company based on the Power of Dreams.  This is aligned with my own personal philosophy because I’ve always believed that at Honda, you can achieve whatever you want, and the company will help you get there. I believe this, because I’ve personally experienced it.


Counter to many of my peers in the industry, I don’t have a college degree. So, I began my career at Honda as a temporary administrative assistant. Over the years, I had the opportunity to learn and grow, but it didn’t come without feeling the need to work twice as hard at every turn. Along the way, Honda provided me with learning opportunities and challenging mentors.  Today, I manage Honda of America’s Community Relations team and serve as the Executive Director of the Honda of America Foundation. This wouldn’t have been possible without the thriving culture that is cultivated at Honda.



Your funding is spread among many areas in the region.  How do you determine who will receive funding?


We provide philanthropic support to 19 counties, which includes counties where our manufacturing operations are located, as well as, surrounding counties in West Central Ohio. Our funding priorities can be categorized into three pillars:

1.     Sustain – Environment, Food & Shelter

2.     Enhance – Care Centers, Mobility, Addiction/Substance Abuse

3.     Educate – STEM, Cultural Exchange, General



What is the process for nonprofits to be considered for grant support?


First, I would encourage new grant seekers to review our funding parameters, eligibility requirements and process for requesting a grant on our website. If there is an alignment between the organization and Honda’s funding priorities, it is helpful to meet with representatives from the organization in the April to August timeframe.

Grant requests must be submitted via our online application between September 1 and November 30. Organizations will be notified of the funding decision by March 31 the following year.


Do you fund capital campaigns?

While we provide some funding for capital campaigns, we primarily support programs or projects that meet the needs of our priorities.  

How do you place Honda associates on nonprofit boards?

Honda is pleased to have long-standing relationships with key organizations in the community. In some cases, these relationships and an organization’s alignment with our vision have led to board placement.   We strive to have an impact in the communities where our associates live.    One area where associates can get actively engage in supporting organizations of their choice is through HondaGO, a volunteer-based program where associates can give back and through their efforts, earn Dollars-for-Doer grants for that organization.



How can nonprofits find out more about Honda’s community involvement? 

Please visit our website https://ohio.honda.com/our-community or email questions to grants@ham.honda.com.