Cincinnati has no shortage of exceptional nonprofits and charities. Donors want to know where their donation will do the most good. They have questions, too. How do they support new arts initiatives before they launch? Can one donation improve someone’s overall opportunities and well-being? What if they support a well-funded organization when another is in desperate straits? Enter the umbrella nonprofits. These organizations collect funding for nonprofits and programs to use in pursuit of a common goal. Through careful investments, community networking, and vision, these nonprofits are supporting—and even growing—exciting organizations and initiatives.
ArtsWave is living history engaged in building a better, more colorful future. In 1927, Charles P. Taft and his wife, Anna Sinton, decided to capitalize on the regional art boom. The philanthropists wanted their city to enjoy the same kind of artistic vigor they’d enjoyed in their lifetimes. They launched a challenge grant, asking the public to match their $1 million donation. The community responded by donating two-and-a-half times that amount in a matter of months, and the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts—now known as ArtsWave—was born. “Our mission to is to fuel a more vibrant regional economy and connected community through the arts,” says Alecia Kintner, president and CEO of ArtsWave. “We are approaching our 100th birthday of raising and investing community funds into our arts landscape.”
With at least $10 million a year to contribute, the nonprofit is a funding powerhouse. Artists who benefit from ArtsWave’s initiatives range from students to clowns to opera singers. Each year, it helps fund more than 100 arts organizations, performers, and museums, including the Cincinnati Ballet, Juneteenth Cincinnati, and the American Sign Museum.
“When you aggregate tens of thousands of donations, you suddenly have the equivalent of a mutual fund,” Kintner notes. “You can invest according to defined principles that you can use to seize opportunities and drive change. Another advantage of this structure is that we are a steady funder, helping ensure the stability and impact of about 40 of the largest arts organizations every year as well as catalyze new arts activities.”
When museums and communal art spaces closed or hacked back hours, and concerts were nonexistent because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and the early months of 2021, ArtsWave’s work became more about protection than dispersal.
“The pandemic’s devastation for arts organizations was immediate and severe, with more than $130 million in lost ticket sales and other revenue,” Kintner says. “Artists in Ohio faced a higher percentage of unemployment than workers in any other industry. ArtsWave’s role as the engine for the arts was as first responder in our own industry. We made emergency grants and loans, we provided artist relief checks, we convened arts leaders on a weekly or bi-weekly basis so that they could share problems and solutions, and we advocated to local, state, and federal elected officials to make significant dollars available to arts organizations and nonprofits.”
ArtsWave helps ensure the show will go on, even when the show can’t be onstage. But they can’t do it alone. Kintner explains: “The arts only survive when the community deems it important, and a community shows that they value the arts by attending, contributing, and being curious.”
Founded in 2014, The Ken Anderson Alliance grew out of one family’s determination to create better opportunities for a loved one. Now, it’s blossoming into a community. It’s a unique kind of umbrella nonprofit, uniting various opportunities, programs, and venues into an alliance capable of transforming the daily lives of Cincinnatians with disabilities.
“[Former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback] Ken Anderson has a nephew, Drew, who has special needs and the family was struggling to find housing that was both affordable and provided adequate supports,” says Kevin Potts, the organization’s executive director. “Ken made it his mission to create opportunities for adults with special needs in the community and a holistically better life for anyone with disabilities.”
The Alliance specifically aims to provide adults with disabilities opportunities to “Live, Work, and Engage.” “This goes beyond just housing and focuses on opportunities for fulfilling lives through employment training and social outings that help to form long-term relationships with peers and members in the community,” Potts explains.
It’s more than a motto. Each word represents a program which involves multiple nonprofits working together to fulfill one of the Alliance’s goals. Through its “Work” initiative, adults with disabilities have chances at employment. Participants can choose to work with plants or people through the O2 Urban Farms aquaponics program (launched by Mark Ruberg and Tom Mendel) or the Just Brew Coffee House, which opened in July 2021 and has a sister location opening next March.
Through its “Engage” initiative, the Alliance allows its participants to interact socially through Melodic Connections, a music therapy program started by former Clark Montessori teacher Betsey Zenk Nuseibeh. The organization took over Melodic Connections earlier this year and merged the program with its adult day services. Together, it currently serves more than 350 people in the Greater Cincinnati region. Expansions are planned here, too, with “Melodic 2.0” in 2022 for both adults and youth.
And housing is still a major component of the Alliance’s vision with the “Live” initiative. That vision becomes reality when The Commons at Springfield opens in 2023. The integrated community is designed to offer tailored support while fostering independence for adults with disabilities. Offering living quarters for a total of 133 people, The Commons will help more people live, work, and engage in ways that simply wouldn’t be practically or financially feasible otherwise. “All our programs constantly work to overcome funding struggles and to provide free or affordable services for the population we support,” Potts says.
The Greater Cincinnati Foundation officially launched in 1963 with a $600,000 endowment, built on the premise of developing a healthier, more vibrant Cincinnati. How the organization achieves that mission has changed over time. “We were an organization with a mission,” says Ellen Katz, president and CEO. “Now we’re an organization on a mission.”
Although their financial donations and grants are impressive, it’s the principles behind each grant that are the greatest assets. GCF makes a concerted effort to support community leaders and grassroots organizations propelling meaningful change and disrupting unjust systems. That starts with listening and continues beyond delivery of a grant. “We’re holding ourselves accountable by doing what we say we’re going to do and we’re more impactful because of it,” Katz notes.
Three programs GCF supports highlight the foundation’s varied and diverse approach to social equality and support.
The Women’s Fund has a very specific mission: to identify and address barriers holding back Cincinnati’s working women. The Fund’s Black Women’s Economic Mobility project directly supports the GCF’s push for racial equity. Data and evidence upon which The Women’s Fund is based also highlights the economic benefits of reduced poverty rate and financially independent women for the city as a whole.
The second program, HealthPath, is a smaller program supporting health initiatives across the state. This has obvious economic benefits, but the GCF also highlights the nonprofit’s attention to healthcare for the city’s indigent population. Everyone benefits but those benefits grow from targeted attention to inequality.
The third program, All-In Cincinnati, was launched in partnership with United Way of Greater Cincinnati and Interact for Health and showcases a direct effort to disrupt inequitable systems by strengthening neighborhoods. It aims to build lasting economic change, led by the communities on everything from healthcare initiatives and housing policies to food access and education.
Equity isn’t just something GCF wants for the community. “We can’t stand for something unless it’s happening from the inside out,” Katz says. “We knew that if we were to truly put our stake in the ground and be community leaders, we’d have to walk the talk.”
And donors have responded. Despite the hardships of 2020, the year brought in more than $163 million in donations, a GCF record.
GCF’s mission benefits all, and everyone can join the movement. GCF wants donors to get involved, and its digital platform empowers donors to connect with their communities, discover nonprofit funding opportunities, and even make grant suggestions. All the change GCF is making begins and cycles back to support the Cincinnati community.