Business leaders, in collaboration with The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation and United Way of Greater Cleveland, established BVU in 1993. CNE was founded in Akron in 2001 by a coalition of community leaders from the public and private sectors, including an operating endowment funded by the GAR Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In September 2011, BVU and CNE merged, with a combined 29 years of strengthening nonprofits.

Engaging businesses and nonprofits to work together to strengthen the Northeast Ohio community.


Vision and Planning

The BVU Board of Directors, comprised of Cleveland’s business leaders, hired Alice Korngold as the Executive Director. The founding staff conducted national research and interviewed 128 local business and community leaders to determine how BVU could have the greatest impact. Feedback indicated that BVU (originally BVC) could make a difference by training and matching qualified board members. In addition, United Way of Greater Cleveland and the BVU Board had agreed that BVU would host The Volunteer Center. With this input, and a mandate to create an organization to engage businesses in the community, BVU conceived the organizational model and its programs and services, developed a strategic plan and raised funds to launch BVU in 1993. Early founding staff include Denise O’Brien, Elizabeth Voudouris and Ann Kent.

The Center for Nonprofit Excellence was established in 2001 under the executive director leadership of Elaine M. Woloshyn.  Leaders from the nonprofit, foundation and business communities collaborated to create an organization charged with assisting nonprofit organizations to realize their greatest potential and serve as a catalyst for creating and offering proactive solutions for nonprofit challenges.  Also established was the Roger Read Resource Center, named for CNE’s first Board Chair. Both a physical and a virtual source for nonprofit organizations to access information, the Resource Center is a Foundation Center Cooperating Collection making the Foundation Directory Online available to grant seeking visitors of The Resource Center. The aim of helping  nonprofit organizations achieve their missions through effective management was accomplished through a robust offering of trainings and workshops; customized consulting; and technical assistance information sharing benefitting executive directors, board members, staff and volunteers of nonprofit organizations.



One of the keys to BVU’s long term success is the revenue model. This includes an annual business membership through which businesses join in order to nominate their highly qualified professionals to participate in BVU’s board matching program. United Way of Greater Cleveland established an evergreen funding agreement in 1995 to support The Volunteer Center at BVU. BVU also established relationships with significant foundations, including The Cleveland Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, Deaconess Community Foundation and the Saint Luke’s Foundation who view their annual support of BVU as an investment in strengthening the nonprofits in Northeast Ohio.

CNE is the beneficiary of an endowment established by the GAR and Knight Foundations, and held at the Akron Community Foundation to support capacity building in Summit County.


Consulting and training – 1996

The board matching and training program grew rapidly to over 80 board elections a year by 1996. Candidates who attended BVU’s Role of the Board training and had been elected were contacting BVU staff to seek training or consulting to strengthen the boards on which they were now serving. In response to this demand from business members, BVU developed highly innovative board development, consulting and training services in 1997.


Regional and National replication – 2000

In 1999, BVU presented a national conference in Cleveland to help other cities replicate the BVU model. At the same time, BVU’s unique board matching program was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. This national coverage prompted over 200 inquires from cities that wanted to replicate the board matching model. In 2000, BVU established and developed BVU Lorain County after receiving a $250,000 grant from The Stocker Foundation to provide core program funding. In 2002, with funding from the Charles Mott Foundation, BVU facilitated the establishment of BVU Maryland.


Transitions in leadership and strategy — 2005

Following the departure of founding President & CEO, Alice Korngold, the BVU Board named Brian Broadbent as the new CEO in July 2005. Under Brian’s leadership, BVU conducted a strategic planning process that led to the formation of key strategic initiatives including the growth of the board matching program, the expansion of business members, the establishment of the retiree consulting program, the minority board member pipeline and the retooling of The Volunteer Center.


Regional Merger – 2011

Given the growing trend towards regionalism and strategic alliances, combined with the strong mission alignment between BVU and CNE, the boards of the two organizations began exploring a merger in the Spring of 2011.  After an extensive review of the feasibility and impact of such a merger, the boards agreed to merge CNE and BVU in September 2011.  The new organization, now known as BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence will provide the full range of services to businesses and nonprofits in Cuyahoga, Summit and contiguous counties.


Encore Initiative – 2014

BVU’s Encore initiative in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation was launched in an effort to utilize the passion, skills and decades of experienced individuals and match them with a nonprofit organization where they can help build capacity, grow strategically and, ultimately, have a broader impact on the community.