For most of us, receiving midday and dinner hour solicitations has become somewhat de rigueur. But what distinguishes these solicitations for donations from philanthropy? And what makes philanthropic giving so vital?

Consider promoting literacy, for example. Most of us don’t give a second thought to whether we can read a label in the grocery store or recognize a street sign. Yet, imagine what life would be like if you couldn’t read.

In 2009, the Stocker Foundation recognized the need to fill an achievement gap for under-resourced prekindergarten through third grade public school students. For 30 years prior, Beth K. Stocker and her three daughters had awarded $46 million to a host of nonprofit organizations in arts and culture, community needs, education, health, social services and women’s issues. In 2009, the Stocker Foundation announced a shift to focusing on preschool emerging literacy, book distribution, student reading enrichment and more. This year, it expanded its grant strategy to include science, technology, engineering, arts and math, helping kids learn to read and bringing them into the 21st century of literacy.

“We’ve been incredibly thoughtful about identifying best-in-class nonprofit partners across the country,” says Patricia O’Brien, executive director of the Stocker Foundation. “All of our partner organizations have the capacity to improve reading outcomes for young learners. Partnerships with Lorain and Elyria City Schools, Can I Tell You My Story Initiative and Lorain County Imagination Library are but a few examples.”

The Nord Family launched the Nordson  Corporation Foundation, which has been led by Cecilia Render as executive director for the past 15 years. Since its founding, Nordson has integrated a Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability strategy as part of its corporate culture. Its founders, Eric and Evan Nord, as part of Nordson’s articles of incorporation, committed to contributing approximately 5 percent of U.S. pretax profits to support charitable endeavors.

Render says that six years ago, the foundation recognized the need to entice homegrown talent and began the Nordson BUILDS Scholarship Program for students pursuing majors in engineering-related STEM disciplines, business or manufacturing. Scholarships range from $2,500 to $10,000 per year.

“Our facilities are in smaller cities. We can’t always attract outsiders, so we began targeting those who live or go to school near our facilities,” explains Render. Although there is no guarantee that students will be hired post-graduation, select students are chosen for internships.

Individuals from the community were instrumental in the creation of the Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County, an organization based on the premise that a local, public foundation could make certain kinds of charitable giving easier and more productive for donors and the community.

“We connect people who care with causes that matter across Lorain County,” says Cynthia Andrews, president and CEO of Community Foundation of Lorain County. The organization’s footprint covers 34 municipalities.

For over 40 years, the Foundation has distributed over $100 million in grants and scholarships to local nonprofits. In 2005, it became the first community foundation in the U.S. to be certified in compliance with National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations, confirming its use of best practices. In the past year, it was responsible for awarding $6 million in grants and scholarships.