Forum names new CEO

Dave’s appointment is not the big news here. The important news is that the nation’s largest philanthropic network has chosen a leader who will guide the Forum and its members into a more collaborative, connected and smart next phase.

Continue Reading November 30, 2015 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

Thinking outside the box

headshot of suzanne allenHave you ever used an expression or an idiom and been asked to explain it? You know, expressions like: “push the envelope,” “stay ahead of the pack,” “corner a market,” “raises the bar” or “the elephant in the room?”

To a person whose first language isn’t English, these can be truly baffling, but so is the Spanish expression, “ser pan comido,” which means “to be bread eaten” or what I would translate idiomatically to be “a piece of cake.”

In English, I might say, “as good as gold” but the Italians would say “buono come il pane,” which means “as good as bread.”

How, you ask, did I get on this path of idioms? It started with a 12-year-old, a Blu-Ray remote and a joke. Yes, the 12-year-old was showing me how the Blu-Ray was supposed to work and he told me a joke, which was, “You know even if you ‘push the envelope,’ you are still ‘stationery.’” Take a minute…

Idioms are interesting in every language, but the one that’s always been the hardest for me to grasp (and explain) is this one: “think outside the box.” And I hear it a lot, at least once a day. And frankly, idiomatically speaking, it’s “rubbing me the wrong way.”

Wikipedia says it means to “Think creatively, unimpeded by orthodox or conventional constraints.” But at the “end of the day,” one must get back into the proverbial box to try and act on the thinking that was done in an unorthodox or unconventional way.

So where did this idiom really come from and why is it such a hackneyed phrase?

Somewhere back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, folks in the U.S. aviation industry used the term “outside the box” in this context: “We must step back and see if the solutions to our problems lie outside the box.” (Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 1975)

The box seemed to signify rigidity, constraints and linear thinking. Yet an even earlier example from the 1940s in an Iowan newspaper uses the phrase, “pushing out in the blue.” Perhaps this is where another idiom, “blue sky thinking,” arose.

I digress. Back to the story. English psychologist and inventor Edward DeBono is generally given credit for coining the phrase “outside the box thinking” in 1967. He sometimes used the term “lateral thinking” and “outside the box thinking” interchangeably, yet he encouraged people to look for solutions from outside their usual thinking patterns and he used a 1914 puzzle as his metaphor. Does this look familiar?

9 dots puzzleIt’s included in the 1914 bestseller Sam Loyd’s Cyclopedia of 5000 Puzzles, Tricks, and Conundrums (With Answers), and this famous puzzle, known as the Nine Eggs Puzzle, was posed like this:

“Draw a continuous line through the center of all the eggs so as to mark them off in the fewest number of strokes.”

columbus egg puzzleThis puzzle has become the hallmark of “outside the box” thinking and was popularized in the 1970s and 1980s by a management consultant named Mike Vance, who helped create the corporate culture of the Walt Disney Company, where the puzzle and the “outside the box” thinking were de rigeur.

During the same time, another psychologist named J. P. Guilford was one of the first academic researchers to conduct a study of creativity. He, too, used the nine-dot puzzle and he challenged his subjects to connect all nine dots with four straight lines without lifting their pencils from the page.

From the business and the academic worlds, I wonder how many times, and in how many workshops, have you been asked the same question that Sam Loyd asked in 1914?

But before we throw the idiom and the theory behind it away, let’s not forget Charles H. Duell, who was the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who in 1899 said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

Was he wrong? Should he have thought “outside his box?”

However you want to view this box, it really is a perspective, a set of limits that may or may not be self-imposed. But it is a box about context and opinions and creativity. And that’s something we all must attend to, no matter what our business or purpose is.

carboard boxBoxes are how we frame our work and it’s really hard to work without a frame or a paradigm. In fact, it’s hard to think outside boxes.

But lucky for us, we get to choose our boxes, we can change our boxes and we can look at boxes from other perspectives and ask others to look at ours. We can ask people from another department or company or from Spain or Italy to jump in our box and see what they think or say.

But I do wish we could find another idiom to use, I’m so tired of “out of the box thinking” – to which the Italians might say—idiomatically—“In bocca al lupo!” translated as “into the mouth of the wolf!” and meaning “Good Luck!”

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

November 10, 2015 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

A month of giving thanks – and giving

headshot of claudiaI saw a statistic recently that said 34% of all charitable donations will be received in these last two months of the year. Given the data I’ve just been reviewing for our soon-to-be released Ohio Gives report, that’s could be more $1.5 billion just here in Ohio. It’s not a lot of money if you think about the federal budget – or its deficit – but it’s the lifeblood in communities large and small, urban, rural and exurban across the state. For community foundations, United Ways and nonprofits of all kinds, this time of year means long hours, lots of social media work to connect with donors and a push to a big finish.

national philanthropy day
Part of this push comes from the designation of November 15 as National Philanthropy Day. It’s a day that celebrates the many types of philanthropy, such as giving and volunteering, and the many contributions those choosing to engage in philanthropy have made over the past year. It began back in 1986, when President Reagan declared the first such National Philanthropy Day; since then, local chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals have held celebrations recognizing outstanding philanthropic organizations, fundraisers and youth philanthropists. It is now international in scope, not just limited to the U.S.

Here in Ohio, there are a number of such events, including some that are presenting awards to our members:
• Central Ohio AFP will honor the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio and Michelle Cramer on November 24;
• NW Ohio AFP will honor KeyBank on November 12;
• Greater Dayton Region AFP will recognize Dayton Foundation President Mike Parks on Nov. 10; and
• Greater Cleveland AFP will recognize the Burton D. Morgan Foundation on November 6.
Congratulations to these honorees for their dedication and commitment!

giving tuesdayAnother date that will push donations into high gear is #GivingTuesday, a global day for giving back that comes the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Eat your turkey, shop until you drop on Black Friday, shop on your computer on Cyber Monday and then donate to your favorite charities on Tuesday, December 1.

Stay tuned for the release of the most recent data on how Ohio foundations, individuals, United Ways and others invested in their communities, but here’s a hint: the total giving we’ll be reporting for 2013 is over $7 billion.

claudia signature

Claudia Y.W. Herrold

November 2, 2015 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Philanthropy Ohio 2.0

headshot of suzanne allenI like to start each staff meeting, each board of trustees meeting and each letter with the phrase, “It’s a Great Day at Philanthropy Ohio.” And I truly believe it, and perhaps more so now as we enter into a new phase – one I call Philanthropy Ohio 2.0.

In the course of a few months, we’ve completed a Strategic Action Planning Process and moved our Columbus office: both endeavors reflect our culture of service and excellence and support our mission. And both engaged our staff, trustees and members, providing leadership for philanthropy in Ohio and enhancing the ability of members to fulfill their charitable goals.

Let me first tell you about our Strategic Action Plan. This was an exciting process, designed to be more adaptive than a traditional strategic planning process. The overall objective was to engage board and staff members in co-creating a clear and measurable focus for our work over the next three years. Beginning in February 2015, a consultant worked with staff to develop and implement a process that included interviews with members, former members, board and staff as well as broader field research. The board, during its June retreat, distilled all of the gathered information into the following strategic goals, which are based on prior impact statements:

  1. Offer programs and information resources in order to advance the knowledge and skills of those engaged in philanthropy (preferred source of learning for Ohio philanthropy);
  2. Strengthen its capacity, secure resources and stay flexible and nimble in order to focus on vision and mission (strong, sustainable association for Ohio philanthropy);
  3. Convene and facilitate conversations between philanthropy and policymakers in order to build relationships, highlight the impact of philanthropy and advocate on issues of interest to donors and funders (most trusted representative of Ohio philanthropy’s interests); and,
  4. Build and maintain meaningful relationships with its members and connect them to each other in order to build a strong peer network (valued connector of Ohio philanthropy).

150917_PO-183It is exhilarating! Over the next few months, each committee of the board will work with staff to consider its pertinent strategies and action items and recommend where priority energy should be placed in the coming year. And, of course, we’ll track our progress, measure our success and grow in meaningful and manageable ways as we implement the three-year plan.

Our second big news is our new office, also a long-planned endeavor. Just down the street from our former Broad Street home, it’s a smaller, more functional and creative space. I invite you to stop by and see us in our new, inspiring space. We are so grateful to many of our members who supported our “New Home Fund” and made this move possible: The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, The Burton D. Morgan Foundation and Richard W. and Patricia R. Pogue Fund.

brewery tower building It’s a Great Day at Philanthropy Ohio!

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen

October 26, 2015 at 12:27 pm Leave a comment

My first 100 days

headshot of ellen katzThis week Philanthropy Ohio welcomes guest blogger Ellen Katz, sharing her impressions as the new leader of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

I recently hit my 100 day mark as the president/CEO of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF). During my 25 years in this region, (I was formerly the president/CEO of The Children’s Home of Cincinnati) I’ve come to appreciate its many assets.

As the new leader of GCF, I see these assets – and our opportunities – as never before. While I knew this role would provide a bird’s-eye view on the region, I appreciate the magnitude more and more with each passing day.

farmers market

Findlay Market in the Over-The-Rhine Cincinnati neighborhood.

As a community foundation, we exist to leverage our donors’ generosity into solutions to our region’s problems, to support and enhance its great assets and to create a more prosperous community. Our perspective on the many regional initiatives launched to address issues such as education, arts and culture, the environment, human services and economic development is both broad and deep, and we want to share our knowledge with our donors in support of their determining how best to deploy their charitable resources.

greater cincinnati foundation logo What I have come to understand more than anything in the past 100 days is that GCF’s unique place and opportunity is in being donor-driven. We are known for our leadership as a critical funder, but how we lift this community must be determined in partnership with our donors. A community foundation is developed by and for a community of people. Helping donors most effectively invest their charitable resources in the areas for which they are most passionate is the engine of our work.

Fountain Square downtown Cincinnati

Fountain Square downtown Cincinnati.

I am inspired to work with our donors and the community to demonstrate the power of philanthropy – together.


Ellen Katz

October 12, 2015 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

A focus on leadership. A focus on diversity. A focus on creativity.

headshot of JessicaThese were some of the themes and takeaways from Philanthropy Forward ’15 held September 16 – 18 in Cincinnati. The annual gathering of philanthropy – Philanthropy Ohio’s largest event comprising of 240 individuals from all over the state – was a dynamic and energetic experience that filled the downtown Westin Cincinnati.

While buzzwords like collective impact, civic innovation, social impact investing and design thinking littered conversations, deep questions and topics filled sessions and dinner discussions.

How can we achieve racial equity in our grantmaking, how can we align our grantmaking with our values, how can our organization be a better leader, how do we change systems, and how do we advance diversity, equity and inclusion?

Paul Schmitz, CEO for Leading Inside Out and author of Everyone Leads ignited the conversation, speaking about how everyone can lead, not just certain people or organizations. (Special thanks to The Greater Cincinnati Foundation)

“Leadership is an action everyone can take… not a position a few can hold,” said Paul. “Change happens through collective action. It is not a solo act.”

Along the lines of leadership, several sessions focused on diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental to human existence,” said Kelly Brown, director of D5 Coalition. Kelly led the lunch plenary describing how D5 grew a network of champions advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). First, they sought resources, engaged people in the conversation around DEI and invited others to the table. See the full report.

Several conference sessions dove into topics ranging from criminal justice reform to racial justice grantmaking – not only significant but timely subjects.

In addition, we honored three philanthropists with awards, including a new award this year: the Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy, named for Shinn, who died earlier this year. He chaired the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, taking on primary responsibility for guiding Philanthropy Ohio’s work in that arena.


Ohio Philanthropy Award winner: Gordon B. Wean; Emerging Philanthropist Award winner: Connor Reed Thomas; Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy winner: Kristi Andrasik

In other sessions, organizations like People’s Liberty and Design Impact encouraged attendees to think outside the box when it comes to philanthropy.

People’s Liberty is a philanthropic lab powered by the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and the Johnson Foundation. It invests directly in individuals by providing funding, mentorship, work space and storytelling support to grantees working on projects that address civic challenges and/or seize unique opportunities. We took a tour of their space in Over-the-Rhine and learned how and why they’re doing philanthropy different.

Design Impact led the Innovation / Flip Lab at the conference, a unique space where attendees considered – and then reconsidered – orthodoxies that community leaders have adopted as core operational assumptions, encouraging participants to look at the other side of the ideas, leaping outside of the box and into a whole new world. The Flip Lab was inspired by the Freakonomics Radio Podcast.

Design Impact is a nonprofit social innovation firm made up of designers, community development practitioners, social entrepreneurs and educators collaborating with passionate people, bringing design and innovation practice to the table and working together to design a better world.

Above all, Philanthropy Forward ’15 was about applying new perspectives, including unheard voices and implementing bold ideas. Communities are shifting. Needs are shifting. We need to shift philanthropy and how we do business because philanthropy is much more than grantmaking. The impact is more than a dollar amount and we have the opportunity to make a real difference in our communities now and for decades to come.

Help us keep the momentum going. If there was a topic you’d like us to expand on or something you’d like to know more about, send us an email and let us know. If you missed the conference, check out our Storify story of Philanthropy Forward ’15 with tweets, photos and more from the conference.

eric & shiloh pose with oktoberfest mugs

Philanthropy Forward ’15 co-chairs Eric Avner and Shiloh Turner

The conference would not have been possible without our co-chairs Eric Avner, VP for The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./US Bank Foundation, and Shiloh Turner, VP for The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the planning committee and our generous sponsors.

Special thanks to Heidi Jark,  Host Event Chair, and Fifth Third Bank Foundation for an awesome Oktoberfest Welcome Party and closing celebration featuring Cincinnati Ballet.

Heidi speaks to oktoberfest crowd

Heidi Jark addresses the crowd at the Oktoberfest Welcome Party

cincinnati ballet dances in ballroom

The Cincinnati Ballet performed to Walk the Moon’s “Shut up and Dance”

If you attended Philanthropy Forward ’15, I hope you enjoyed the conference as much as I did. And if you haven’t given your feedback, please do. We want to make Philanthropy Forward ’17 even better and more disruptive. Until then, we’ll see you in Columbus September 20-21 for the 2016 Learning Institute.

Happy innovating,

jessica signature

Jessica Howard

October 5, 2015 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

2015 Award Honorees Announced

headshot of claudiaLast week at Philanthropy Forward ’15 in Cincinnati, we celebrated philanthropy and presented three awards to individuals who are advancing the field and doing some really great things. The annual Philanthropy Awards this year honored a lifetime achievement honoree, an emerging philanthropist and an honoree who celebrates and is dedicated to improving diversity, equity and inclusion.

Philanthropy Ohio congratulates these individuals and we’re delighted to celebrate their accomplishments!

headshot gordon

Gordon B. Wean, Raymond John Wean Foundation chair and Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley board member

Ohio Philanthropy Award

Gordon B. Wean,
chair of the Raymond John Wean Foundation and board member of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, has won the 2015 Ohio Philanthropy Award. “Gordon realized early on that grantmaking in the Mahoning Valley had to change in order to be effective and meaningful. His vision transformed the Wean Foundation from one that supported the family’s personal interests to one that now provides benefits to a diverse array of nonprofit organizations and has become a leading force in the Mahoning Valley for building community and facilitating change,” said his nominator.

gordon poses with melissa and glass awardIn his role as board member of the local community foundation, Gordon was instrumental in transitioning the foundation from one focused on attracting funds to one focused on strategic philanthropy and community impact, says Shari Harrell, president of the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley (CFMV). “He led CFMV’s strategic planning process in 2011 and continually brings new ideas and energies to committees and the board,” she noted.

Gordon also served on the Philanthropy Ohio board for nine years, which he chaired in 2012 and 2013. While chair, he led the organization through a strategic planning process that resulted in new membership categories and a name change.

photo of kristi

Kristi Andrasik, program officer at The Cleveland Foundation

Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy
Kristi Andrasik,
program officer at The Cleveland Foundation, is the first recipient of the newly-established Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy. The Philanthropy Ohio Board of Trustees created the award to honor Shinn, who died earlier this year. He chaired the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, taking on primary responsibility for guiding the organization’s work in this arena.

kristi, suzanne and Mrs. Shinn pose with glass awardsCleveland-area colleagues who nominated Kristi wrote of her professional and personal commitment to making philanthropy more inclusive and equitable. Since joining the foundation three years ago, Kristi has focused on helping the Cleveland LGBT community mobilize resources and strengthen community infrastructures to prepare for the 2014 Gay Games and improve the well-being of Greater Cleveland’s LGBT residents.

One of her nominators described her impact, saying that she “helped frame Gay Games 2014 as more than just a game but as a movement – one that ushered in a greater level of awareness and acceptance of LGBT issues. In every exchange, Kristi is always mindful of the implications of the work in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes.” Another peer remarked that “Kristi has made it her mission to strive for equity, which I believe to be a daunting task. I have witnessed Kristi build bridges between philanthropy and non-profit organizations to be inclusive and dedicated to diversity.”

photo of connor

Connor Reed Thomas, sophomore at Goshen High School

Emerging Philanthropist Award
High school sophomore Connor Reed Thomas is this year’s Emerging Philanthropist Award honoree. Connor attends Goshen High School in Loveland, Ohio, where he serves as class president, holds a 4.3 grade point average and is a star athlete in football and track and field. Outside of school, his philanthropic passion is in raising funds to support veterans and the military, most recently organizing a 5K run that raised $10,000 for homeless veterans suffering from addiction. He is also active in programs that send care packages to troops and runs a website devoted to military heroes.

connor poses with glass awardThe Philanthropy Ohio award is just the latest in a long list of awards and citations Connor has garnered so far for his volunteer efforts. The Army Chief of Staff, Governor Kasich and Cincinnati’s Mayor Granley are but a few of those who have recognized him for dedication and accomplishments.

Congratulations to all three recipients for their outstanding contributions to their communities!

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

September 21, 2015 at 4:22 pm Leave a comment

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