Foundation For Appalachian Ohio Raises $3.4 Million

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The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is celebrating the success of its shareholder campaign. FAO raised over $3.4 million dollars through its Leadership One Hundred shareholder campaign, exceeding it's goal of $3.2 million.

FAO serves the 32 Appalachian counties of Ohio, including Athens County. Appalachian Ohio helps fund several non-profits in Athens County, including the Athens Senior Center and Stuart's Opera House.

CEO Cara Brook says the funds will go towards bettering education and arts as well as funding local non-profits in Appalachian Ohio.

To raise the funds, FAO sold "shares" for $32,000 each. Shareholders receive no financial gain from donating, with all profits going back towards helping the region.

FAO sold more than 100 shares in the past year. Shareholders come from all across the nation, including businesses, private citizens and anonymous donors.

"This is a very unconventional way of fundraising," Brooks says. "We have never let the conventional rules of fundraising direct us. It's all been about what the region has needed."

According to Brooks, FAO is the first local foundation to raise money through a shareholder system. "We very much think this is a model for any other community foundations that are struggling."

Vice President Megan Wanczyk says FAO started with few resources and that the money earned through the Leadership One Hundred campaign will help move their focus "outward."

"We were started because we were needed, not because there was money available," Wanczyk says.

Wancyzk also says she hopes their increase in funds will help close the "philanthropic gap" between Appalachia and the rest of Ohio.

"A person in our region has about 693 dollars in philanthropic support behind them, and if you look at Ohio without our region it's closer to the upper six thousands."

Appalachian Ohio hopes to continue their growth, announcing their plan to raise $100 million by 2029.