By 2010, ecommerce and social media were quickly becoming a way of life for many of us.

However, a number of nonprofits lagged behind in their ability to pivot to online fundraising and thereby faced the threat of losing donors. Younger donors were especially primed for the shift to online fundraising. Once again, Centre Foundation proved to be an innovative organization, adapting to thrive in the digital age while bringing the power of giving to more community members.

The most significant innovation came in the form of Centre Gives, which has come to be known as the foundation’s signature event. Centre Gives raises millions of dollars each year from donors throughout Centre County and beyond for local nonprofits through the power of online giving.

Jodi Pringle was board chair when Centre Gives began in 2012. The idea came about quickly and there was a split about whether to start it that year or wait another year to do more planning. Pringle was the tie-breaking vote on the board and said she’s glad the organization was able to seize the moment and launch the event.

“It had the potential to be very successful, but we didn’t have as much time to plan that first year,” Pringle said. “We kept learning and it kept growing, and now it’s gone beyond everyone’s expectations and far exceeded our initial goals.”

Centre Gives fully brought the foundation into the digital era. It leverages the power of social media to help organizations spread the word and engage in friendly competition for prizes that add to their fundraising totals. The event also serves as an introduction to the foundation for nonprofits and community members who might not otherwise be engaged with Centre Foundation.

Opening New Doors to Philanthropy 

It was during this decade that the foundation expanded to engage with a new generation through Centre PACT, a program that brings together high school students from across the county to assess youth needs and award grants to help address those needs.

McQuillin “Quill” Murphy, who had served on a youth advisory council while in high school in his native Berks County, was at the forefront of the foundation’s youth expansion. When he and his brother Carver moved to State College to attend Penn State, they worked with the foundation to bring a similar program to Centre County.

Murphy said young people are often surprised to learn that they can have a role in philanthropy even if they don’t have a lot of money to donate. In fact, he says, young people should have a seat at the table because they represent a large part of the community and have a deeper understanding of the needs of their peers.

“It’s important to have a diversity of experience and perspectives, and fundraising leaders have a responsibility to include young people and their opinions,” Murphy said. “You wouldn’t make decisions about other groups without bringing them to the table, so let’s treat young people the same way.”

Over the years, Centre PACT grants have supported a number of organizations that serve youth in the community including the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, Park Forest Preschool, and the Penns Valley Youth Center.

Hope Bodenschatz joined Centre PACT as a senior in high school and spent six years with the program before graduating from Penn State last spring and accepting a position as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

“Centre PACT has meant so much to me,” Bodenschatz said earlier this year. “I’m excited to see how the program will continue to grow and to see the impact that all of the students work so hard to make.”

Looking Forward: The Foundation’s Future

While the foundation has achieved a lot over the past 40 years, the organization and its leadership are always focused on how to grow and adapt along with the changing community and its needs. That focus on innovation continued during the COVID-19 pandemic and will help drive growth throughout the 2020s. Read the full magazine here!

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