What does Kathy stand for?

headshot of claudiaAnswering that question was the theme of Kathy Merchant’s retirement toast last week, held in the beautiful Cincinnati Music Hall and attended by hundreds of friends, colleagues and even the mayor. He proclaimed it Kathryn Merchant Day and presented her with a key to the city.

Click here to see all the photos.

greater cincinnati foundation logo It was a terrific tribute to Kathy’s 18 years leading the Greater Cincinnati Foundation; under her leadership, the foundation grew not only the assets, staff and giving of the foundation but became a recognized convener and partner in search of a better, stronger, healthier community. As person after person got up to share reflections on their interpretation of what Kathy stands for, I began to think of my own answer to that question.

Kathy Merchant retirement

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation hosted a retirement event for CEO Kathy Merchant on May 13, 2015.

Kathy was one of the first people I met when I started work at Philanthropy Ohio back in 1998. Coming from jobs in textbook writing and human services coordination, I didn’t know much about foundations and what they did, other than a general idea that they award grants. Over the years, I was able to watch and learn from Kathy as she became a widely-recognized innovator in the community foundation field, both in Ohio and across the country, and as she took on tough issues in southwest Ohio. And, yes, along the way I also learned a little bit about wine – a recurring theme from the reflections shared during last week’s toast.

kathy merchant retirement party

Mary Beth Martin, Claudia Y.W. Herrold and Susan Ingmire pose at Kathy’s retirement party.

In 2006, we presented Kathy with our Ohio Philanthropy Award, which we give each year to someone recognizing their “outstanding contributions to organized philanthropy in our state.” When I re-read the many letters submitted to support and celebrate her nomination for the award, I got my answer to the question of what she stands for: she stands for philanthropy. Her commitment to the field of philanthropy has taken many forms, from participating in the CEO Leadership Circle to encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion in philanthropy, leading an effort to create the Endow Ohio tax credit and sharing her expertise and knowledge with other community foundation leaders in formal and informal ways.

Thanks, Kathy, for all you’ve done to make the philanthropic landscape in Ohio a more effective, strong and visible force for good.

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

May 18, 2015 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

Nepal earthquake sparks Ohio philanthropy

headshot of claudiaWith the death toll at 5,000 and climbing, the April 24 earthquake has impacted more than 6.5 million people in one of the world’s poorest countries. The stories and images of the devastation continue to spread, as do the crumbling, injuries and death caused by strong aftershocks. It didn’t take long for the world – and Ohio philanthropy – to respond to the disaster. I queried our members this week and found immediate plans to help that include these examples:

The Columbus Foundation’s website funnels donations to humanitarian relief organizations;

KeyBank will match employee donations to the American Red Cross Nepal Disaster Relief fund, providing a dollar to dollar match;

Photo: Niranjan Shrestha/AP

Photo: Niranjan Shrestha/AP

The Dayton Foundation emailed donors about how they can help, listing a number of possible charities to support; and

Eaton provided $100,000 to the American Red Cross International Disaster Response Fund for relief in Nepal and is matching employee gifts around the globe for donations to a Red Cross Society or Salvation Army disaster relief fund.

map of where Nepal earthquake occured


There are many resources for Ohioans who want to help Nepal and assure their donations are effective. The Center for Disaster Relief Philanthropy provides this advice:

  1. Watch. The disaster occurred on April 24. Before considering a funding option, wait two weeks. Maybe even four. Use that time for the magnitude of the disaster to truly unfold. It won’t be long before a fuller picture emerges of lives lost, infrastructure damaged, individuals affected and unmet immediate response needs.
  2. Learn. Take that time to understand how the needs associated with this disaster are unfolding by reading media accounts of the disaster, responding agency reports, UN and USAID updates about the devastation, and the CDP website.
  3. Act. After two weeks, the media’s attention will sadly have turned away from one of the poorest nations in Asia.
    Simultaneously, the local and international nongovernmental organization (NGO) community efforts will be in full swing to support the needs of affected Nepalese. Now is the time for a funder to wisely choose to support medium- and long-term recovery efforts. Either by working with CDP or closely with an NGO, look to support activities that will rebuild Kathmandu and put its residents back in their homes, jobs, schools and communities.

        People search for family members trapped inside collapsed houses. Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

    People search for family members trapped inside collapsed houses. Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

Making sure your dollars go to legitimate organizations is a particular concern to Ohio’s Attorney General, who issued a reminder about avoiding charity scams.

Let us know how you are helping with the relief and recovery,

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

April 29, 2015 at 12:10 pm Leave a comment

Philanthropy Ohio testifies

headshot of claudiaLast Friday, Philanthropy Ohio President & CEO Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D., testified in support of HB 128, a bill that would create a tax credit for Ohio taxpayers who donate to endowments at eligible community foundations. The bill was introduced by Representatives Barbara Sears and Ron Amstutz, along with nine of their House colleagues. Both Reps. Sears and Amstutz supported the bill last year, when it passed the Ohio House with broad bi-partisan support evidenced by its 84 – 9 vote.

You can watch the recorded hearing online: it begins with five witnesses from Hudson schools, including two sixth-grade girls. We were glad Suzanne didn’t have to speak directly after these young citizens: they were incredible witnesses who with great knowledge and poise explained why the House should not make any cuts to their district’s funding and went on to answer questions from committee members. By the end of their testimony, members from both sides were recruiting them to run in 2030 House elections.

members pose before finance committee hearing

Philanthropy Ohio members joined President & CEO Suzanne T. Allen who testified at the HB 128 hearing Friday, April 17.

Several Philanthropy Ohio members attended the hearing, leaving their homes early in the morning to arrive in time for the hearing’s 9 a.m. start and we appreciate their support: Brian Frederick (The Community Foundation of Lorain County); Keith Burwell (The Toledo Community Foundation); Marlene Cassini (The Delaware County Foundation); Michele Carey (The Greater Cincinnati Foundation); Erin Clemons (The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty) and Megan Wancyzk (The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio).

Ohio has a strong network of community foundations, starting with the world’s first one established in Cleveland over 100 years ago. These foundations support local nonprofits that address a wide array of critical needs; in 2012, they gave more than $340 million to fund initiatives in areas including education, health, human services, the arts and community development.

front steps of ohio statehouseCommunity foundations across the state are able to make these significant investments because of generous Ohioans who create endowments at community foundations.

An endowment is a fund that invests donated dollars and uses only the interest generated from that investment to make grants. Because it uses only the interest and doesn’t touch the principal, these funds are sustainable sources of revenue in perpetuity. Endowment funds can be created to fund a specific nonprofit organization, a particular cause that is dear to the donor’s heart or any number of programmatic areas.

HB 128 would help grow these permanent funds through these provisions:

  • donors who give $1,000 or less would receive a 50% credit on personal income tax, while those giving more than $1,000 would receive a 20% credit;
  • the credit is non-refundable, so individuals wouldn’t get money credited beyond his/her tax liability in a given year;
  • the credit is capped at $10,000 for an individual filer and $20,000 for joint filers;
  • only community foundations in compliance with National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations (a rigorous accreditation process) are eligible for the credit; and
  • the total pool of state dollars allocated for the credit is $20 million per year.

This last point is where the true power of the concept lies: if donors in Ohio use the entire $20 million available, that could provide $100 million in permanent funds – a 5-to-1 return. And, that $100 million would annually spin off $5 million in grants to nonprofits. With research that shows an $8 economic impact for each $1 of grant money, that means that Ohio communities could receive $40 million in benefits each year.

You can read more about the tax credit’s details as well as Suzanne’s testimony online and stay tuned for updates on the progress of the bill through the House.

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

April 20, 2015 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

5 practices to change philanthropy from the outside-in

headshot of claudiaPaul Shoemaker, executive connector at Social Venture Partners (SVP) Seattle, shared insights gleaned from 17 years of working in philanthropy in a recent essay titled Re-Constructing Philanthropy from the Outside-In.

In line with SVP’s “philanthropic architecture,” Paul approaches his re-construction argument from the broad context of using human, social and financial capital to help nonprofits build capacity and achieve significant change.

empire state buildingThe basic re-construction that philanthropy needs is akin to the fundamental changes contractors made when building the Empire State Building, one of the seven modern wonders of the world.

For about 40 years, it was the world’s tallest building, and, standing 102 floors above Manhattan streets, the first to have more than 100 floors. Completed in 1931 (adapting the design that had been used to build the Carew Tower in Cincinnati), the building was an incredible breakthrough in many ways, including in the practices invented to construct sections of it offsite and then place them on Fifth Avenue.

block quote A similar breakthrough is needed in philanthropy and comes, Paul suggests, through implementing a set of five practices. These practices, he admits, are both familiar and already used by some funders. Alone, they are incrementally helpful: it’s putting them all into practice together that will bring about change from the outside-in.

The five practices are:

  1. Give unrestricted grants: calling funds that are limited as to purpose or time Quite Damaging Dollars (QDDs), Paul says that funders should instead provide 100 percent unrestricted funding to grantees.
  2. Fund long-term: and he doesn’t mean fund for two or three years; the timeframe for investment should be at least 10 years.
  3. Connect with peers: instead of acting collectively as the exceptional practice, make it the norm; philanthropy needs sustained relationships among funders to be a core practice.
  4. Build great boards: foundation boards, he says, must “impose excellence” upon themselves, acting more as stewards and less as overseers.staff meeting with papers and coffee mugs
  5. Listen to beneficiaries: funders can’t “fix communities” without having the recipients of services be participants, so they need to re-frame how they engage in communities to co-create programs and services.

What do you think? How do these ideas resonate with you? Use the comment box to continue the discussion.


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Claudia Y. W. Herrold

April 13, 2015 at 3:47 pm 1 comment

All motivation is self-motivation

headshot of suzanne allenI’m a Tom Peters fan, and have been since that day in 1982 when a graduate school professor assigned his new, best-selling book (In Search of Excellence) as required reading. I’ve since read all his books, disagreed with several, listened to him speak (and rant) in person and on cassette tape and subscribed to his weekly email blast.

His picture even sat on my desk, until a custodian refused to empty the trash can in my office. The custodian saw me with my husband, and assumed that I was being unfaithful to the man on my desk.

A recent email blast was particularly poignant. In it, Tom reminded me to “Never forget when exhorting your troops: ALL MOTIVATION IS SELF-MOTIVATION. PERIOD. (Boss ‘just’ creates platform, offers encouragement.)”

tom peters and book cover“All motivation is self-motivation.” That’s a powerful statement, and although I hadn’t quite looked at it through that lens, it is so very true. And while there are great books and articles that you and I have read, written by creative and highly educated folks that promise you can “Motivate Your Employees in 10 Steps with Pictures” or “Motivate Employees in Less Than 5 Minutes,” there’s more to it.

It is about self-motivation – not ten steps with pictures – and the more I think about Tom’s quote, the more I realize that he’s right again. It’s about believing viscerally in what we do and what we value that is motivating. I see this around the state in the offices, towns and cities of our members. In fact, in a recent lunch meeting a foundation president and I had a hard time having a conversation because so many people stopped to say hello and ask about some project the foundation is involved in.

In a tour of another foundation’s office, it was clear from the front door that the foundation cared about its employees and its grantees. There were pictures everywhere and the tour included explanations of many. The staff had pride in their work, a platform created by their leader (Tom calls this the “smell test” of organizational culture).

8 lessons in search of excellenceTo quote from his 1982 book, “Our excellent companies appear to do their way into strategies, not vice versa. ‘Doing’ things (lots of experiments, tries) leads to rapid and effective learning, adaption, diffusion and commitment; it is the hallmark of the well-run company.”

So many, many of you around the state are “doing” great things and are examples of self-motivating platform- builders. You know what this intuitive thing is and that it’s the feeling we get when we are doing the right thing and are doing it for the right reasons at just the right time.

That’s the sweet spot for a leader, and if you’ve ever hit a tennis ball in the sweet spot on your racquet, or hit a golf ball in the sweet spot on your driver (the only sports I’ve ever played) you understand this – when you are motivated, that motivation radiates and builds the platform for encouragement. I could go on, but I want to hear from you. How do you motivate yourself so that you can be motivational?

Stay tuned, I’m expecting great responses!

suzanne signed in blue ink

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.

March 30, 2015 at 12:49 pm 10 comments

In Memoriam: Michael G. Shinn, CFP

headshot of claudiaLast week, Ohio philanthropy lost a passionate voice with the death of Mike Shinn. Mike was the founder and current secretary of the Shinn Family Foundation as well as secretary of Philanthropy Ohio’s Board of Trustees. He also chaired our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, taking on primary responsibility for guiding Philanthropy Ohio’s efforts in that arena. Mike joined the board in 2010, just a few years after starting his family foundation, which was headquartered in Cleveland.

mike shinn headshot

Michael G. Shinn, CFP

Suzanne T. Allen and I were in Washington, DC, prepping for our visits to the Hill, when we learned of his passing last week. To say it was a shock is an understatement; Suzanne had lunch with Mike just a few days before, introducing him to Brittany Zaehringer (GAR Foundation) so they could talk about the diversity work he was leading at Philanthropy Ohio.

michael shinn

Mike Shinn participates in the Human Services Restructuring Project: Case Study Release and Discussion in 2012.



Mike started his business career at General Electric, having received his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, and he stayed there until he retired in 1998 after 31 years of services as an engineer, manager and corporate staff consultant. He was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, where he founded a Fellows Program; each year, a top scholar receives the Mike Shinn Distinguished Fellow Award from the society. Mike was also a certified financial planner, having written a nationally syndicated personal financial planning column, Your Money Really Matters, and earned his MBA from Case Western University.

Board members at the Fall Forum in October 2014, Mike Shinn, Susan Urano, Scott McReynolds

Board members Mike Shinn, Susan Urano and Scott McReynolds at the 2014 Fall Forum.

In addition to his philanthropic efforts through the Shinn Family Foundation, Mike was also an active and respected community volunteer, devoting countless hours to a long list of organizations. Whether he was serving on the boards of the Shaker Lakes Nature Center or the Mt. Zion Congregational Church, the JumpStart Emerging Market Venture Capital Fund or the Kansas University Endowment Association, he was a dedicated and tireless philanthropist giving generously of his time, talent and treasure. I know there are many others who join me in honoring his life and legacy.

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Claudia Y.W. Herrold

March 24, 2015 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

Making the case for investing in women

headshot of JessicaMarch is National Women’s History month and the perfect time for philanthropy to take a look at equality and what we all can do (men included!) to advance society by applying a gender lens to charitable giving.

Last week, Otterbein University, in partnership with Bowling Green State University and the University of Findlay, hosted a Women in Philanthropy Summit to start the conversation around improving gender equality by investing in women. A cohort of Philanthropy Ohio staff, students and our philanthropic peers from all over Ohio came together to hear about the staggering issues plaguing policies, workplaces and societies for women and girls across the U.S. and globe.

Dr. Musimbi KanyoroOne of the highlights was Tuesday night’s keynote speaker, Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, president and CEO of the Global Fund for Women. She shared the mission and goals of the International Women’s Fund as well as her own experience working to change treatment, opportunities, policy and future outcomes for women and girls worldwide.

Dr. Kanyoro said that for movements to succeed, they need capacity building and leadership. Many women have ignited change, and many girls have gained their voice – the kind of philanthropy that she’s proud of.

As for where to start, Dr. Kanyoro said to connect with a group doing good, and then take it to scale. You’ll recognize that social change has been attained when the issue is reframed, resources are invested, policies and regulations are improved and justice is achieved.

Another highlight of the event was on Wednesday morning, when we heard Katie Koch – the head of Global Portfolio Solutions International for Goldman Sachs United Kingdom – present research on what it’s like to be a female in a developing versus a developed nation. She shared the work Goldman Sachs is doing to improve the availability of small business financing and public policy when it comes to investing in women entrepreneurs worldwide.

“How can any country move ahead when leaving half of its population behind? 90% of countries had one or more gap in legal protections for women. Some countries had 10 or more,” Koch said. “Women make 45 cents on the dollar to men in the developing world. We have to prove to families that education is a good return on investment… more often boys are seen as an asset on the balance sheet, while girls are seen as a liability.”

Goldman Sachs launched 10,000 Women in March 2008, a global initiative to drive economic growth by providing 10,000 women a business and management education as well as links to networks, capital and mentors. By the end of 2013, 10,000 women from across 43 countries had been reached through a network of 90 academic and nonprofit partners.

“Investing in women and girls has the largest ROI for the developing world,” Koch said.

Wrapping up the summit, a panel of smart women leaders – including Shelly Bird, executive vice president, office of the CEO at Cardinal Health – answered questions posed by The Columbus Foundation’s Lisa Courtice, Ph.D.

Q and A women's panel“Investing in women and girls is the best philanthropic strategy. It strengthens families and communities,” Bird said. And her advice to girls: “Pull up a chair because no one is going to give up their seat.”

The summit left me with a full notebook as well as a mind full of thoughts and ideas to ponder. Gender equality and investing in women are topics that not only are increasingly popular among philanthropists and nonprofits, they are key to improving our community for women and men alike. We hope to continue the flow of conversation and great ideas at our conference in the fall, Philanthropy Forward ’15. So stay tuned!

If you missed the Women in Philanthropy Summit, you can see the tweets at #investinwomen and view the full recorded summit here.

Best regards,

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March 11, 2015 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

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