The Portage Foundation is running for you – literally

Image of Lyndsey Loftus of the Portage Foundation
Lyndsey Loftus, executive director of the Portage Foundation. Submitted photo

The Portage Foundation, a community foundation working to fund philanthropic projects in Portage County, is quite literally running a campaign to raise money and awareness for their work. 

Executive Director Lindsey Loftus joined the foundation in May 2020 and wanted to find a way to directly raise money for and promote the organization. He said he wants to showcase their “collective why,” specifically why the foundation exists.

From there, the idea for the Ultra ‘21 Society and the 100 for 100 campaign was born. 

Loftus, who is a runner in his spare time, will be running in the Burning River 100-mile ultramarathon on July 24. Those interested in “participating” in the ultramarathon alongside Loftus can join the Ultra ‘21 Society by giving a suggested entry level gift of $100 to the Portage Foundation Excellence Fund. 

Loftus said the $100 is a suggested gift, but regardless of the amount a person donates they’ll still be a part of the Ultra ‘21 Society. 

The Excellence Fund is the foundation’s general operating fund, which supports the day-to-day work of the Portage Foundation. The fund allows the foundation to work with donors that create endowed and restricted funds to provide grants and scholarships to help the community.

After donating and joining the Ultra ‘21 Society, donors can like and follow the campaign’s Facebook page where they’ll be showcasing donors and grant recipients to give testimonials on the work the foundation does in the community, as well as sharing updates on the race.

“We’re having those groups tell us through these little testimonials why the support we gave them was important,” he said. “In other words, what makes you run? So if the Boy Scouts got a grant, what makes them run? What’s the reason they need that money? What kind of impact are they trying to have on the kids in Portage County? And you can run that schema for all the organizations we’ve supported.”

Loftus said this spring the Portage Foundation provided 51 scholarships and 14 grants to organizations. While he said these numbers are great, he wants to someday give four or five times that amount and hopes that creating the Ultra ‘21 Society will generate more buzz for the foundation.

“I don’t care about the hundred bucks at a time. I care about the hundred bucks that creates awareness,” he said. “Then somebody tells a friend and they tell two friends, and one of those friends says, ‘Oh, I was thinking about creating my own family foundation, but instead of me doing that, why don’t I just run my money through the Portage Foundation.’ That’s where a community foundation can be helpful because it takes some of that ‘administrivia’ off the individual. In other words, we do the back room work for them and they can focus on their charity.”

In the spirit of continuing to build a community around the campaign, Loftus is enlisting some board members and donors to meet him at various mile markers along the race to run alongside him as a guest pacer. He also asked some of the foundation’s corporate partners to assume a guest pacer role where they can talk about their company or organization and why it’s supporting the Portage Foundation.

“It’s not about me at all,” he said. “It’s really about this collective community foundation, and there’s a lot of people that rallied around this Ultra ‘21 Society motif to get this 100 miles done. We’ve really been trying to push that piece. It’s less about a guy running 100 miles, because a lot of people do that and they do it well and they do it a lot better than I will ever do. This is just the rallying cry.”

The Portage Foundation is a longtime supporter of Kent State, and the Kent State Foundation is one of the Portage Foundation’s corporate sponsors. Associate Foundation Relations Officer for the Kent State Foundation Lindsay Barba got to know Loftus through working together and will be joining him for five miles of the race as a guest pacer.

“I don’t think the traditional population really understands what philanthropy is, what a community foundation does, unless you’re really working in it and living it,” Barba said. “I think his goal is to really raise awareness of the impact of community-based philanthropy and the determination, grit, blood, sweat and tears required to really empower these at-risk populations in a small community like Portage County. I’m just really impressed by what he’s doing.”

Bethany Leslie, director of The Mount Union Fund and Planned Giving and a friend of Loftus, helped him review his plans for the Ultra ‘21 Society prior to its launch. 

“I told him in reviewing the materials, I’ve seen a lot of really cool crowd planning ideas and things that other nonprofits and schools are doing, but this is something that I’ve never seen before,” Leslie said. “It’s a very unique campaign that gives someone insider access and insider view to what he is doing with his race, but also to what’s going on with the Portage Foundation and what kinds of great things they’re doing in the community. Then every dollar raised is going to be immediately put to use to make a direct and significant impact in that community, which I think is really amazing.”

Leslie said she’s excited to see the impact the community is going to make through the Ultra ‘21 Society.

“One hundred dollars for an individual may not seem like a lot, but when those hundred dollars are compounded by many individuals, that collective impact is really significant,” she said.

In terms of measuring the campaign’s success, Loftus said personally, he’d like to finish the race. But ultimately, he’d like to raise as much money as possible and identify some new donors for the Portage Foundation by reaching out to those who have given a donation to the Foundation and asking more about their philanthropic plans. 

Those interested can join the Ultra ‘21 Society by making a donation here.