Mike Eikenberry doesn’t have to do what he does.
“I guess this is just what makes me tick,” says Eikenberry, who is entering his fifth year of retirement from PNC Bank in Fort Wayne, where he served as Regional President of Northern Indiana. “After being in the banking industry for 50 years, I gained a lot of experience in corporate giving.”
Eikenberry and his wife, Kathy, are well-known to many nonprofit organizations in northeast Indiana because of their tireless work in helping dozens of groups. “The passion we share is not only to make a difference for an organization but to make an impact that can open doors that lead to opportunities.”
The list is a long one, but includes the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, the Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, Arts United, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect), Trine University, the World Baseball Academy and Junior Achievement.
“I’m down to serving on eight boards,” says Eikenberry. “But I look at charitable giving as having two sides. I’m involved on a personal basis with the boards I serve on as well as the nonprofits that Kathy and I personally support. On the other side, I’m on the distribution committee for both the English Bonter Mitchell Foundation and the Wilson Foundation. Those two foundations together distribute about $7.5 million per year to nonprofit organizations in northeast Indiana.”
Eikenberry points out there are a number of organizations that receive donations from the two foundations he is involved with, that he and Kathy also support personally.
“Junior Achievement is a good example of that,” he says. “I’m on the JA board’s executive committee as well as the development committee for the new facility that is in the fundraising stage. The English Bonter Mitchell Foundation gave JA a lead gift of $1 million and the Wilson Foundation gave $250,000 to kick off the capital campaign for the new building. English Bonter Mitchell Foundation also gives JA $165,000 annually for operational expenses. On a personal level, Kathy and I pledged money to the building fund and we continue to give JA other donations throughout the year. It’s gratifying to know you are supporting 140,000 youth learning about the free enterprise system.”
Those who know Mike and Kathy can attest to the fact that neither of them is driven in their philanthropic work for the purpose of notoriety. They both have offices in their home where they spend many hours on the phone and computer doing behind-the-scenes work.
“I’ve been on the board of the local Salvation Army for years and am a life member. Personally, I have been interested in this organization for the work it does and that more of your dollar gets to the end recipient than any organization I can think of. The people at the Salvation Army are doing their work as a spiritual mission and they take very little in pay and reach a great number of people.”
A few years ago, the Salvation Army presented Eikenberry with its prestigious “Others Award,” which honors an individual or organization exemplifying an extraordinary spirit of service to others.
“Different people have different interests in giving,” Eikenberry says. “Some people love the arts and are heavily involved in their support. Others are interested in helping social causes. Kathy and I look at spiritual aspects of giving and that’s where a lot of our charitable giving goes.”
While he is humble about their generosity, Eikenberry says he and Kathy are proud of the work accomplished through the organizations they support. He says there are many things to take into consideration when looking to donate: social needs, educational needs, the arts and economic needs.
All of that came together recently in a venture Eikenberry was involved with when it became clear that local students would benefit from a degreed music program that was going to be lost when IPFW split and the campus became Purdue Fort Wayne.
“The degreed music program that had been at IPFW was gone because it was affiliated with IU. Through the EBM foundation we were able to give $1 million toward a Purdue Fort Wayne degreed music program. The state gave $1 million. Chuck Surack of Sweetwater Sound stepped up in a significant way and now Sweetwater is going to house a music technology program on the Sweetwater campus in Fort Wayne. It’s a great example of seeing state, private investment and foundation investment all work together to support a public university. And it’s significant because it puts Fort Wayne in a highly regarded leadership role.”
On a lighter note, Eikenberry points out that charitable giving can be a heck of a lot of fun.
“The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum is very close to my heart because I’m a car person. I love supporting the museum and I started a fundraiser called, ‘The ACD Driving Experience.’ You get to spend time with other car enthusiasts and we all get the chance to drive like you never could on public highways. And the best part is, it’s raising money for a great cause. Helping others is a passion that everyone can have and it isn’t just about donations of money, but also donations of time. Everyone can carve out a little time to help others and we all will be the better for it.”