Our Donors are Leaders in Greater Cincinnati

Chuck Scheper and Julie Geisen Scheper with second graders at John G. Carlisle Elementary in Covington. Chuck and Julie are GCF donors.Chuck Scheper and Julie Geisen Scheper with second graders at John G. Carlisle Elementary in Covington.

By Ellen M. Katz, President/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation exists to leverage your generosity into solutions to problems you care about. Together we are able to create a more prosperous community.

“You don’t just want to write a check and feel good about it. You want to see improvement.”
Chuck Scheper. Read more of Chuck’s story.

We want to support you in determining how best to use your charitable resources.

“We decided to partner with GCF to support Withrow Dental Center because it is an innovative healthcare solution that has been proven successful.”
Jeff and Heather Spanbauer. Read more of this partnership.

A community foundation is developed by and for a community of people. Because of your generosity in 2014:

As you can see, helping you most effectively invest your charitable resources in the areas you are most passionate is the engine of our work.

“It was difficult for me, so I’d like to pass on the opportunity to someone from a similar background who is really eager to go to school and does not have the means to do it.”
Laura Harrison. Read more of Laura’s story.

Let’s find out how we can work together.

Ellen M. Katz is the CEO/President of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

Fostering Youth Leadership Through Art

By Julia Mace, Senior Communications Officer, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

A recent work day began with me donning a hard hat and getting painting instructions from college student Karalyn Henry. Not my typical work day at The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF)!

Lori Beiler
Lori Beiler hard at work.

My colleague, Lori Beiler, and I were fortunate to spend a morning working on murals with ArtWorks apprentices as part of an event to allow donors and funders to take part of mural creation.

As I climbed two flights of scaffolding to work on the Sycamore Street mural, Kara calmly gave me directions, asked me questions, and told me about herself.

Hard hat time!
Kara directing Julia on mural making.

Working on the mural was fun, but what really stuck with Lori and me was how impressed we were with these young future leaders.

Since 1996, ArtWorks has been providing life-changing summer employment experiences for Cincinnati’s youth through the creation of community-based art. By painting murals, youth not only hone their artistic skills, but gain valuable work experience and life skills.

Making Art
Getting supplies ready.

More than 500 youth apply for the 200 available positions each summer.

It was obvious the group we worked with was top-notch. They were well-spoken and confident with adults as they became our “bosses” for the day.

Lori was as impressed with Ahustin Crawford, a college student, as I was with Kara.

“[Ahustin] told me he wanted to be an art teacher and his experience at ArtWorks had influenced him,” Lori said. “It was his second year in the program. The best part of the day was talking to the kids.”

Artworks Volunteers
Coffee break!

The apprentice group we worked with was diverse in age, schools, neighborhoods, and interests. The group ranged from 15 to 21. There were high school students from DePaul Cristo Rey and Mother of Mercy High School, and college students from Northern Kentucky and Xavier universities.

One apprentice told me how surprised she was that the group not only worked well together but became friends, despite their age differences.

GCF supports organizations like ArtWorks because they contribute to a more thriving and vibrant community. ArtWorks uses the arts to foster community and foster youth leadership.

Our generous GCF donors love ArtWorks. They granted more than $200,000 to the organization in the last year and a half, and GCF was able to grant an additional $100,000 recently to ArtWorks.

The mural Lori and I worked on represents this summer’s CincyInk project, supported by a $50,000 GCF grant. ArtWorks’ CincyInk is an interactive, citywide celebration of love for Cincinnati, manifesting itself in the form of a community-created poem, tattoos, and urban art installations.

We thank these apprentices—our future leaders—for contributing to the beauty of our city.

The next time you drive past the Horseshoe Casino, check out “The Queen Shares Her Crown” mural that Lori, Kara, Ahustin, and I got to work on.

We paint some mean bumblebees.

Our ArtWorks crew - volunteers and apprentices
Our ArtWorks crew – volunteers and apprentices.

Julia Mace is the Senior Communications Office of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

Images via ArtsWorks | Julia Mace | Yvette Simpson

Building Meaningful Connections

Our 2014 Annual Report cover features Union Terminal. Learn more about our work with the Cultural Facilities Task Force.
The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s 2014 Annual Report cover features Union Terminal.

By Ellen M. Katz, President/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation

As the new face here at The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, I’ve been busy learning all about the meaningful connections GCF makes in the community.

The spirit of giving in the Tristate is legendary, and we are proud of the part we play. By partnering with many in our community, GCF granted more than $77 million to nonprofits in 2014.

You may be surprised at the many things GCF has had a hand in, thanks to our generous donors.

A few of the projects in which GCF has invested:

In taking this job, I’m excited by GCF being the region’s leading convener.

By partnering with many organizations and community leaders, GCF has helped to develop a shared vision of community change, save two local icons,  support big ideas, inspire the next generation of philanthropists, improve racial equity, and connect many interested donors to causes they care about.

GCF is often there, providing support behind-the-scenes.

Another important role for us is building the nonprofit capacity in our region. We do this in many ways – through grantmaking, impact investing, and support to nonprofits. Our nonprofits are top-notch in Greater Cincinnati, providing for the good of our community in countless ways.

I personally subscribe to the values of servant leadership, where the needs of others are put first.

That’s why I love the story of the women leaders of the Fresh Air Society, who realized their mission to provide tenement families a respite in the country was obsolete. They went on to partner with the local banking community to start The Greater Cincinnati Foundation in 1963.

I look forward to partnering with you, as I begin my journey here at The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

Ellen M. Katz is the CEO/President of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

The Promise of Our Future

Via Cincinnati Preschool Promise
Via Cincinnati Preschool Promise

By Shiloh Turner

We promise many things to our children – to love them always, to do our best to protect them, to make their lives better. But many of our community’s children are missing the chance to get the early start they need for success throughout their lives.

What promise do they hold to be successful in their lives and in our community?

What our children do in the first five years of life isn’t just a stage – it’s really their only chance. Our brains do more work in the first five years of life but our investment in education is concentrated much later along children’s educational path.

Via Wyoming Kids First
Via Wyoming Kids First

Here’s how the path works, according to the data: Kindergarten readiness is improved by preschool experience. Third grade reading proficiency is driven by Kindergarten readiness. Eighth grade math achievement is linked to third grade reading success.

You probably see where this is going: 80-90% of students who excel in eighth grade math will graduate from high school, ready for college and career.

But many of our children are not getting the right start on that path.

According to the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, “Cincinnati only has enough federal Head Start funding to cover about half the children who are eligible. The state provides additional funding for childcare subsidies, but there are still gaps in the system. Thousands of children – more than half of the city’s 3 and 4 year olds – are completely unserved.”

The Preschool Promise believes that every child deserves a solid start and a chance at a better life. Attending preschool is the best foundation for achieving success and all of our children deserve that opportunity. I’m proud to be a steering committee member of the Preschool Promise.

The Promise is simple. Every child, regardless of family income, can use tuition credits – more people at more income levels will be able to afford it. Parents choose the preschool. It is “last dollar” support – other available funding will be used first. It will help create a sustainable market for quality preschool because parents will ask for it, and have the means to pay for it. The Promise will also help preschools improve their quality.

We are aiming to help 5,000 children get two years of quality preschool, which could make us first in the nation in this arena. Even our model program in Denver is just one year right now.

To make it happen, the Preschool Promise will need funding from a school district levy, city or county sales tax initiative, or by leveraging existing city, state, or school resources. Voters and elected officials alike will have to help fulfill this promise to our kids.

It’s worth it. According to the First Five Years Fund, “Every dollar invested in quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children delivers economic gains of 7-10 percent per year through increased school achievement, healthy behavior, and adult productivity.”

Investing in quality preschool is also an investment in grownups: our current workforce. It provides quality education – not just babysitting – for the children of those working in many sectors, and it creates a more highly qualified workforce in the preschools themselves.

How does this connect to the work of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation? Since our 1992 Early Childhood Initiative, GCF has invested in the early years of our region’s kids. As best practices have evolved, the Foundation has invested and provided leadership to collaborative efforts like Success by Six ®, Partners for a Competitive Workforce, and StrivePartnership.

GCF’s work to ensure Thriving People includes investments in Economic Opportunity and Educational Success that support children and families through their lives. And we believe that a successful educational career for each child, beginning with quality preschool, can help level the playing field on longstanding racial inequity in our workforce and local economy.

Quality preschool for all children. Everyone believes it’s a good idea. Let’s make it happen for Greater Cincinnati’s kids.

Here’s what others are saying:

Shiloh Turner is The Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Vice President of Community Investment. Learn more about her here.

Satisfied Giving: Tips for Personal Philanthropy

Delhi Middle School students
Delhi Middle School students at Crayons to Computers.

By Amy Cheney

Giving back is supposed to feel good. But it turns out, many Americans are dissatisfied with their charitable giving. A friend of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Daniel Torbeck of UBS Financial Services, recently pointed out this fact in this excellent editorial in The Cincinnati Enquirer.

“Americans’ dissatisfaction with giving practices has a lot to do with how they do it, which, we found, is largely haphazardly.” – Daniel Torbeck

Research has shown giving releases endorphins and often makes a person feel good. If you aren’t feeling the joy of giving due to a haphazard approach, consider the following tips.

Why do we give?

Giving is a deeply person act. It will be worth taking time to consider what values you hold most dear. Be sure that your giving reflects your individual values.

Most people give for one of the following reasons:

  • Passion (your favorite nonprofit organization, health cause, or place of worship)
  • Loyalty or obligation (like to an alma mater)
  • Reaction (such as an emergency need, natural disaster or a friend asked you to support a charity walk )

Creating a good mix

To feel more satisfied about your personal giving, create a plan. Review your recent giving to see patterns in your giving. Making a plan is easier (and more fun!) than you may think.

As suggested by Jason Franklin of Bolder Giving, a good place to start with your giving plan is to break down your giving with the 50/30/20 formula:

  • 50% of giving to be for your passion
  • 30% out of loyalty/obligation
  • 20% in reaction to needs as they arise.

Adjust the formula to determine the mix is right for you and your family, and create a plan for your 2015 giving based on what you decide. With these plans, it also is smart to leave a percentage of your giving as unspecified, so you have the freedom to react or respond throughout the year.

Planning for impact

Planning your giving will leave you feeling more satisfied with how you give and will ultimately make a greater impact in the areas you care about most. A giving plan also prevents you from saying yes to charitable obligations to which you’re not committed.

Consider reviewing your giving plan each year. You’ll not only feel less frazzled, but you can have some great conversations about where you want your money to go.

We are proud to offer our donor families various resources to make their giving more focused. Please contact The Greater Cincinnati Foundation‘s Giving Strategies Group if you have any questions about creating a plan for your giving at 513-241-2880 or info@gcfdn.org.

Amy L. Cheney CPA, CAP® is The Greater Cincinnati Foundation‘s Vice President for Giving Strategies. Learn more about her here.

Beyond the Grant Check

Welcome to The Greater Cincinnati Foundation‘s blog, Leadership Matters. In this forum, GCF’s leaders will focus on timely and challenging community issues, and the role that GCF, its donors, and other partners play in creating a more thriving and vibrant community. 

In our third post, GCF’s Kathy Merchant shares several items that speak to GCF’s strong commitment to racial equity, a thread that carries forward from 2001 to today.

Washington Park

When demonstrated by a community foundation, such as The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, leadership is not just about the number and size of grant checks. Leadership is how GCF uses the collective power of the people—both past and present—who contribute their time, expertise, and charitable dollars to this permanent community resource.

Nowhere is that more significant than in long-term, challenging community issues like ensuring quality education, revitalizing once-vibrant neighborhoods, and creating a more equitable community for all.

Last week, I outlined how GCF deployed “intentional influence” beginning in 2001 to help our community work together to tackle issues of race and equity in a blog post for the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., have resulted in the nation looking for examples of communities who have tackled the issue of police-community relations in particular, as they reflect on racial equity in communities. This brings the focus back to Cincinnati—both what we have accomplished and the work we still have to do.

St. Louis Public Radio visited Cincinnati to learn from many organizations, including GCF, whether our experience can help Ferguson bring its police and community together around reform and healing. A key takeaway is that this process is long and needs many partners to make it successful. We’re proud of what’s we’ve all done together in Cincinnati, but make no mistake – there is still work to be done.

Ben Hecht, CEO of Living Cities, and I co-authored a piece on education and the racial divide for Huffington Post. The case for disaggregating data by race to measure how our students are achieving is strong, but using the data effectively to improve student outcomes is challenging.

Ensuring a more equitable community for everyone who lives in Greater Cincinnati is a long-term endeavor. It’s always on GCF’s radar, and we hope it’s on yours.

For Additional Reading

The New York Times‘ writer Nicholas Kristof wrote a series on racial equity this fall:

Kathy Merchant is President/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Learn more about her here.

Urban Renaissance in Covington

Welcome to our blog, Leadership Matters. In this forum, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation‘s leaders will focus on timely and challenging community issues, and the role that GCF, its donors, and other partners play in creating a more thriving and vibrant community.

In our second post, GCF’s Kathy Merchant looks at what it takes to help revitalize our communities over the long term – it’s not quick, and it’s not easy, but it matters.

GCF Donors take a tour of Covington
GCF donors take a tour of Covington. See the rest of our tour photos on Facebook.

Transformation of Covington’s neighborhoods is advancing at a rapid pace! Just 15 years ago, only a few community organizations toiled in the trenches to slow neighborhood decline – even as the riverfront was being successfully developed in Covington and Newport.

Last month we took some GCF donors to see Covington’s revitalization, starting at the Center for Great Neighborhoods where community developers have been hard at work since 1976. We saw the proof of how far things have come thanks to increased and sustained investment in both traditional and new groups

Covington Row Houses
Row houses in Covington being renovated.

Revitalizing Covington started with a vision for change. Forward Quest (now known as Vision 2015) called for an “urban renaissance” in Northern Kentucky. Slowly but surely, resources and organizations joined to jump start the revitalization effort. The projects our donors saw on the Covington tour resulted from many years of hard work, collaboration among multiple partners, and a series of complex funding strategies.

GCF is proud to have been a strong and committed partner throughout this process. What made this possible? Our community’s generous donors.

Since 2000, GCF has shared a steady stream of grants, loans, and equity investments from our endowed community funds and from The Northern Kentucky Fund of GCF to renovate buildings, start new businesses, advance K-12 and higher education, support lifelong learning, build a stronger workforce, and revitalize neighborhoods.

The total invested by GCF in the leading nonprofit organizations featured in this post is $7.3 million.

GCF was instrumental in bringing the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. LISC is a national organization that works through local programs to help community residents transform distressed neighborhoods. LISC provides financial resources, shapes public policy, and provides technical assistance. Since 2000, LISC has helped to renovate nearly 2,000 houses and apartments and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Starting in 2007, LISC tapped Covington for a comprehensive initiative called PlaceMatters, patterned on a national LISC model called Building Sustainable Communities.

Mutual Building
Mutual Building

A major new development tool accelerating Northern Kentucky’s urban renaissance is the Catalytic Fund. GCF provided an impact investment (loan) to help seed a $10 million development fund, and also helped get the Catalytic Fund off the ground. The Fund’s work includes redevelopment of the historic Mutual Building, right in the center of Covington’s re-emerging business district, creating market-rate housing and commercial space. Restoring this architectural jewel will catalyze the return of the area as Covington’s hub of New Economy business activity. The Catalytic Fund provided subordinate mortgage gap financing for this project and coordinated all financing. (UpTech, an anchor tenant, is described below.)

Cincinnati Development Fund (CDF) has worked for 25-plus years to finance community development efforts in the region. GCF made its first impact investment to CDF in 2002 to help begin a process of diversifying the downtown neighborhood by adding more middle income residents to alleviate the concentration of poverty, and has since approved a second loan. Now, CDF is financing a 32-unit rental conversion project in historic downtown Covington, complementing the commercial and other projects of the Catalytic Fund.

UpTech is a start-up business accelerator formed in 2012 to leverage the talent and knowledge generated by Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics. GCF provided $45,000 in start-up funding for operating expenses, and recently approved a $200,000 equity investment.

Life Learning Center
Life Learning Center

Life Learning Center will soon have a new home to provide comprehensive life skills training and employment support in the formerly vacant and blighted Stewart Iron Works building adjacent to the Center for Great Neighborhoods. The Catalytic Fund has provided critical development services to get this project done. GCF provided grants to plan and develop this new community resource.

Progress in these neighborhoods and the ways it is funded are ground-breaking (pun intended) and are being noticed around the country. In fact, LISC chose Cincinnati for its recent national board meeting because we have so many great projects going in our region.

GCF is proud to have the flexible charitable capital and patience to make investments in long-term change, even when the results may not be immediate.

Covington Organizations Summary of Investments

Which brings us back to our donors. We are able to make investments like this using endowed funds entrusted to GCF by generations of donors who care about our community, but have no way to predict what its needs will be in the future. If not for these donors’ generosity, we would not have the resources to support community change that really matters.

Kathy Merchant is President/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Learn more about her here.

Images via GCF/Catalytic Fund

Save Our Icons

Welcome to The Greater Cincinnati Foundation‘s new blog, Leadership Matters. In this forum, GCF’s leaders will focus on timely and challenging community issues, and the role that GCF, its donors, and other partners play in creating a more thriving and vibrant community.

In this first post, GCF’s Kathy Merchant recaps the unprecedented community effort to save two important historic buildings, which culminated this week in a vote by Hamilton County Commissioners not to support a fully vetted and viable plan to permanently fix Union Terminal and Music Hall.

Union Terminal and Music Hall by Wally Gobetz
Union Terminal and Music Hall

The iconic Music Hall and Union Terminal are hubs of education, economic, and artistic activity that have helped our region thrive for 136 and 81 years, respectively. The museums and cultural organizations that call these buildings home have a significant direct and indirect economic impact in the region. The buildings are critical anchors for economic development and cultural enrichment in Queensgate and Over-The-Rhine, two important neighborhoods in our urban core. Like most great cities, our cultural facilities are located in densely populated areas, convenient for residents, and yet inviting for visitors from many places.

But these iconic buildings need us now.

In July, they made the National Trust for Historical Preservation’s list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Buildings.” Other investments, both past and future, may be jeopardized if these buildings are left to decay. Their unique and historically significant architecture helps to define and differentiate Cincinnati from other Midwestern cities—a plus in attracting companies and people to our region.

Cultural and economic development consultants have, for many years, concluded that our region “fights above its weight” in the cultural sector. We are unique among benchmark American communities as a destination to live, work, and visit. Many successful cities such as Denver, Charlotte, Indianapolis and Kansas City yearn to create the range of cultural assets we already have here, and they are willing to pay for them.

For more than a half century, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) and its generous donors have supported the development of a diverse cultural sector throughout our region.  Fueled by this insight, GCF has partnered with cultural institutions and other philanthropists for more than a decade to figure out how we can “diversify and grow the pie” of resources to support the continued growth of the cultural sector.

The work of the Cultural Facilities Task Force, co-convened by GCF and the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, is an unprecedented collaborative effort that produced a comprehensive renovation plan for Union Terminal and Music Hall.

Brilliantly led by former P&G chairman Bob McDonald and teams of experts from engineering, architecture, public finance, and philanthropy, the Task Force’s review was thorough and represents a huge step toward changing the dynamic of how we do business as a region. The financing proposal is prudent, paving the way for a balanced public and private approach to saving our icons. We believe that the mix of investment sources, which includes a ¼ cent increase in the local sales tax, is reasonable and achievable at an annual cost of $23 per taxpayer, whether they live in or are visiting Hamilton County. You can read more about the Task Force’s report here (PDF).

This solid renovation and financing plan was presented to the Tax Levy Review Committee and Hamilton County Commissioners with a request to permit the residents of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to vote on the ¼ cent sales tax in November. With some suggested modifications, the TLRC recommended sending the sales tax levy to voters. Despite strong support from Commissioner Todd Portune, Commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann declined to allow this plan to be placed on the November ballot. Instead, they passed a measure that eliminates Music Hall from the equation and does not fully address the needs of Union Terminal.

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation is committed to working with the Cultural Facilities Task Force toward the complete restoration and repair of Music Hall and Union Terminal.

Image Credits: Wally Gobetz

Kathy Merchant is President/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Learn more about her here.