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Local foundation leader meets top lawmakers

(March 14, 2007) Nelsonville, Ohio – Leslie Lilly, president and CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), participated in the national Foundations on the Hill event February 27 – 28 to discuss philanthropy with key Congressional and state legislators in Washington, D.C.

FAO was one of ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­just four foundations from Ohio to participate; others included The George Gund Foundation in Cleveland and The Spaulding Foundation in Cincinnati. Representatives from the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, a statewide association of grantmaking organizations, also attended the event.

A record 390 foundation and regional association trustees, executives and staff traveled to Washington to participate in Foundations on the Hill, co-sponsored by the Council on Foundations and the Forum of Regional Associations. Participants—representing 44 states and the District of Columbia—met with more than 80 senators and 250 representatives on Capitol Hill.

During their Hill meetings, participants urged lawmakers to sign on as co-sponsors of the IRA charitable rollover legislation, support improvements to the donor-advised fund and supporting organization provisions in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA). They also asked legislators to consider joining the Congressional Philanthropy Caucus, a soon to be formed bipartisan group. In addition, many foundation leaders discussed the need to ensure that charitable reform efforts balance the need to curb abuse with the need to grow philanthropy.

Lilly said the event was a prime opportunity to share information about the Foundation’s mission and the potential for philanthropy to improve education and opportunity in the region. The IRA Rollover Act also featured provisions for scholarship funds that directly affect donors and scholarship giving in Appalachian Ohio. FAO offers a number of scholarships for regional students.

While in D.C., Lilly met with Sen. Sherrod Brown and staff members for Sen. George Voinovich, Reps. Charlie Wilson, Zack Space and Jim Jordan, all legislators whose constituencies include part of Southeast Ohio.

“Appalachian Ohio holds tremendous potential for growth, which philanthropy can help spur,” Lilly said. “It’s important that our legislators at all levels are aware of the issues that affect giving in our region.”

According to the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, more than $1 billion was given in grants by about 3,050 active foundations and corporate giving programs in Ohio in 2004 (latest data available). The congressional districts that make up Appalachian Ohio, Districts 6 and 18, hold the smallest assets in the state yet serve a large geographic area with many philanthropic needs, Lilly said.

Since 2003, Foundations on the Hill has provided an annual opportunity for grantmakers to meet with their federal lawmakers in Washington, D.C. This partnership effectively combines the Council’s expertise on legal and legislative matters with the regional associations’ expertise on local philanthropy and the leverage they bring as local constituents.

The Council on Foundations is a membership organization of more than 2,000 grantmaking foundations and giving programs worldwide. The Forum works to explain and expand philanthropy through a network of 32 regional associations of grantmakers. The regional organization in this state is the Ohio Grantmakers Forum, with headquarters in Columbus.