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A Powerful Formula for Community Investment

Dec 05, 2017

This is a time of year that we consider present and future investments in our community. For many, the year-end brings an annual allocation of charitable giving. Meanwhile, many of us are taking stock of the year gone by and the year to come. Perhaps your New Year’s resolutions will include a new volunteer endeavor, or 2018 will commence your service on a nonprofit board.

Whether investing talent, time, or treasure, Leadership Akron encourages leaders to exercise intentionality as they consider where their investments can make the most difference. At their closing retreat last month, our recently graduated LA:NEXT Class 7 explored the sweet spot of their community investment: where each individual’s personal passions, the community’s needs, and their unique strengths intersect. As we exercise intentionality, our focus becomes clearer and we can better respond to opportunities with a resounding yes or an appreciative not now, according to the fit with our priorities for community impact.

At an organizational level, Akron’s Huntington Bank has followed a similar path in focusing their community investment. With leadership from Akron Region President Nick Browning, they determined that Akron’s neighborhoods are their priority. Then, they defined a rigorous approach to guide their community investment in each neighborhood: Convene, Inform, Align, and Invest. Whether in Downtown, Kenmore, North Hill, or elsewhere, this approach accounts for the bigger picture and builds social capital in the midst of community investment. By convening partners who are already active in the neighborhood, Huntington is building relationships with local players on the ground who will bring their community investments to life and make them sustainable. By understanding existing efforts in the neighborhood, they are gathering context of what’s already happening, what’s working, and what’s challenging. By helping to align partners around shared goals and coordinated efforts, they are minimizing duplication and heightening the impact of their investments, which come after convening, informing, and aligning have occurred.

As I stood at the LA:NEXT (New Endeavors for Experienced Talent) graduation last month, it struck me that these graduates have been on a similar wavelength. At their opening retreat, they convened, building relationships with fellow leaders at a similar stage of life and a shared commitment to building Akron’s well-being. Throughout the program, they became informed about our community’s key drivers and opportunities to serve. At their closing retreat, each graduate aligned with community causes that resonated with them. And moving forward, they will invest their talents and resources into continuing to make a difference, post-career. Toward the end of the program, one LA:NEXT participant exclaimed to our facilitator, Karen Talbott, that “I’ve found it!”. Karen, thinking she might have misplaced something, asked her what had gone missing. She went on to explain that what she found was not a misplaced object; it was a place to serve. This spring, she will draw upon her financial background to volunteer at the United Way’s new Financial Empowerment Center in Kenmore – funded as a result of Huntington’s intentional community investment in Akron’s neighborhoods.

If you know of community-minded individuals who are in a season of approaching, transitioning into, or mastering retirement, now would be a great time to put them in touch with us. Our LA:NEXT Outreach Committee is building their prospect list for Class 8, which takes place in Fall, 2018. Please visit to submit a prospect for LA:NEXT in 2018. 

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