The Buffalo News: National foundations investing in Buffalo

The cooperation and recent track record of Buffalo’s economic development efforts has caught the eye of an unlikely source of investment capital: national charitable foundations.

Lured to the city by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, executives from several deep-pocketed nonprofits want to put their vast dollars to work in one of the nation’s most downtrodden cities as it undergoes what many see as a revival.

They say they are intrigued by the new sense of public and private-sector teamwork in the region, and are considering targeted investments in key projects to improve the economy and quality of life. The goal is to create conditions that encourage the growth of small businesses and jobs, so individuals and families can earn more money and accumulate wealth.

The foundations are eying the components of the regional economic development plan – such as technology manufacturing and medical research – as the mechanism to do it.

“We are very impressed with the cooperation and the intergovernmental and public-private partnerships that have already been developed in Buffalo and the surrounding area,” said Frank Altman, founder, president and CEO of the Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF), one of the national groups. “We just think there is a real opportunity to get behind that.”

The foundations want to invest from their core holdings in projects, businesses and initiatives, hoping to make a greater impact on the community. Projects may include building new and improved housing, fostering the creation of new jobs, training workers, supporting new businesses, and encouraging environmental and social initiatives.

Representatives of eight national foundations and three national investment firms gathered in Buffalo for a daylong summit in June with 50 attendees in all, and officials hope to build on that in the fall.

Specific opportunities that the Community Foundation is pitching include:

• Training programs for jobs that pay “family-sustaining” wages

• Investing in businesses in “economically distressed communities”

• Buying government bonds

• Investing in companies with “strong environmental records”

• Offering credit to a local land trust to buy land for preservation

• Buying and developing commercial or mixed-use properties in specific areas

Investors were particularly interested in the new Advanced Manufacturing Institute and companies participating in the 43North business plan competition, according to Community Foundation.

The foundations expect to earn enough on their investments to sustain their holdings.

“We’re a community that’s really on the move in terms of economic development, and these investors are coming to town to meet with local economic development leaders to begin the conversation of opportunities where they can put capital to work in the local community,” said Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, which is spearheading the effort and coordinating the partners along with the F.B. Heron Foundation.

“It’s clearly about economic development, but it’s not about grants,” she said. “These foundations are coming in to look for opportunities in which they can invest their actual endowment.”

That would bring significantly more outside dollars into the community to leverage local money. And it could add to the national attention that Buffalo is gaining from the state’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, the growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the University at Buffalo, and the surge in development.

“The word is getting out about Buffalo as an up-and-coming city and this is validation of that,” said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “What I see with this is tremendous horsepower in capital.”

Broader focus

“Mission-related” or “impact” investing is a change for philanthropic organizations long focused on social, environmental and economic change through grants and donations. Philanthropic leaders have concluded that the challenges facing many communities and families are so serious they have to shift gears to make more of an impact.

“Poverty is not marginal anymore. It’s not if we help someone get access to a loan, they can buy a house. If they don’t have a job, having access to a loan is not good, and owning a house is not always good, either,” said Clara Miller, president of the $300 million F.B. Heron Foundation in New York, which seeks to address poverty and related issues through socially responsible investments.

“So we said maybe we should go farther down the food chain and say how can we intervene to make sure people have jobs,” she said.

Nonprofit charitable foundations are required by the Internal Revenue Service to spend at least 5 percent of their total return each year. Heron, for example, has provided a $1.5 million grant to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“BNMC offers one of the most tangible and inclusive expressions of successful economic development and job creation in an ex-industrialized American city,” Heron says on its website. “Anchor institutions, the historically low income surrounding neighborhoods, and community groups are all at the table.”

The newer concept calls for charitable organizations to invest their core endowment directly in communities, seeking investments that will generate social or environmental benefits, and still provide market-rate or near-market-rate returns. That could include support for job-training or job-creation initiatives, funding a “green” economy, small business financing or loan guarantees, private-equity stakes in companies, or investments in stock, bonds or even commercial and residential real estate development.

“This is very new to our community, this whole concept,” Dedecker said. “It’s a powerful opportunity for our community at this time.”

Besides Community Foundation, Heron of New York City and Minneapolis-based CRF, participants include Florida-based Community Capital Management, New York-based National Development Council, EKO, Hitachi Foundation of Washington, D.C., the Kresge Foundation of Detroit and George Soros’ Open Society Foundation of New York. Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and New Island Capital have also been contacted.

The organizations have engaged in similar work in cities across the country, including Chicago, Boston and Cleveland, and their focus ranges from jobs and business development to the environment and housing.

For example, besides grants, Heron also has issued loans, bought debt or made private-equity investments in businesses and communities through funds in California, the San Francisco Bay Area, northwest Louisiana, Boston, New Hampshire and the Appalachian region. Another nonprofit that is not involved here, the Minneapolis Foundation, provided a $1 million working capital loan fund through another nonprofit to enable minority- and women-owned businesses to participate in the construction of a new football stadium for the Vikings.

“The for-profit sector looks for places that are already on the way up and make a lot of money from doing that. The philanthropic sector has a different model,” said Mark Popovich, vice president of programs at Hitachi Foundation, which focuses on quality job creation and career advancement, particularly in health care and advanced manufacturing, and on entrepreneurship. “We’re looking at places that aren’t the most vibrant economic communities, because that’s where the opportunities exist to invest with local investors to support change.”


. (2014  August 24). National foundations investing in Buffalo. The Buffalo News. Retrieved from

RPCI Completes Phase 1 for Development of Clinical Sciences Center with New Era Donation

With the help of a recent $1.5 million donation from New Era, Roswell Park Cancer Institute‘s (RPCI) Clinical Sciences Center (CSC) has reached its Phase 1 development goal.
The Making Room to Save Lives: The Campaign to Build a Greater Roswell Park is a result of RPCI’s growing patient population. Since the campaign began back in June 2011, it received a $10 million donation from Circle of 10 – a collaborative  gift from 10 well known business and philanthropic leaders in Western New York. RPCI patients even gave a $1 million gift that was included in the initial gift of $10 million. A total of 435 donors contributed to Phase I of the Making Room to Save Lives campaign.

The 11-story, 142,000 sq. ft. CSC to be built on Michigan Avenue and Carlton Street will literally make room for the increasing need for cancer services offered at one of the nation’s leading cancer centers.

RPCI’s President and CEO, Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP, stated that “Over the past five years, we have seen a nearly 40% increase in patients and we have seen an almost 60% rise in outpatient wp-contentointments over the past decade.” New Era’s gift has made the process involved with meeting the needs of patients more tangible.

Connected to the main RPCI entrance, the CSC will serve as the location for patients to be screened for cancer and manage outpatient treatments. Its administrative offices will also operate out of the builing. Within the CSC will be a new Chemo-Infusion Clinic that will be twice as large as the present clinic; a Breast Center that will offer community mammography services; a new Mammography Center; an Adolescent and Young Adult Clinic; and a Patient Education/Survivorship Center for RPCI’s patients and their families. The CSC will have additional state-of-the-art office facilities and space for clinician-scientists to analyze data from clinical studies.

A supporter of cancer research, prevention and education as one of its four key platforms, New Era’s gift to Roswell Park continues a long tradition of philanthropy.

“At New Era, we strongly believe in giving back to the communities that we work and live in. One important way we do this is by engaging in partnerships and signature programs that focus on finding a cure for cancer,” said Christopher Koch, CEO of New Era.

The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation raised $40 million for Phase 1 to begin the process of building the CSC. Construction for Phase I is scheduled to begin in Spring 2013.  An additional $10 million will be raised in Phase II for the Center’s “build out” and shell space requirements.

Rendering by FxFOWLE Architects


Light-A-Life 2012 Gives the Gift of Remembrance

A great way for families to memorialize a loved one that they have lost.

Every year, the holiday season presents an opportunity to give gifts to our loved ones and to those we may not even know. While the holiday season ignites feelings of charity, love, food, and family, nostalgia often arises when it is time to make new memories in the midst of remembering those of old.

The Hospice Foundation of Western New York gives individuals and families the opportunity to memorialize loved ones during the holiday season. In its 24th year, the annual Light-A-Life fundraiser serves to honor lost loved ones and to assist with the care of patients within Hospice Buffalo. Helping to keep memories alive and provide the best care for individuals with serious end-of-life illnesses, the Hospice Foundation is shooting for a $120,000 goal this year. With the overwhelming support of family and friends last year, gifts in 2011 reached $117,000. By remembering your loved one, you can help the Hospice Foundation reach this year’s goal to support patients in hospice care.

The Light-A-Life commemorative bells will be given to supporters who give a gift of $55. The porcelain bells are the 18th in a collectible series that can be remembered for future generations. The hand-painted bells by Buffalo ceramic artist Becky Plummer of Barking Spider Pottery will have your loved one’s name inscribed in the inside by a dedicated Hospice volunteer. The traditional Light-A-Life Memorial Tree lighting event will take place on Saturday, December 1st. The trees will be adorned with red, silver, gold and green bows and tags with loved ones’ names on them.  The event is free and open to the public.

Additional gift levels include:

Did you know that Hospice Buffalo is the only licensed hospice program in Erie County? Hospice Buffalo places an emphasis on offering the best quality of life services to patients enduring end-of-life illnesses. Patients are guaranteed to receive holistic care that not only caters to physical needs, but to the social, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient as well. With the help of its team of doctors, nurses, social workers, spiritual advisors, and volunteers, Hospice Buffalo serves the patient and their family members, helping each to live their best lives.

To give the gift of life and honor your loved one, please visit