By JULIE KEMBLE BORTHS
When Dianne M. Rosenberg was 8, she had an idea.
What if she organized a carnival in her Pleasant Ridge neighborhood? What if the money went to a good cause?
The blonde, pig-tailed little girl went around to neighborhood businesses and gathered prizes donated by the local dime store and the kosher bakery, which gave her the leftover pies when it closed Friday evening for the Shabbat.
The joy she felt then, counting up the donation for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is much like what she feels today walking into Music Hall for a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performance or watching families enjoy the swings at Smale Riverfront Park.
Giving to others is what she has always done. “What has changed, what comes with maturity, is a greater appreciation for what your word means to people … when you are asking for their ‘treasure’,” Rosenberg said. “One feels responsible for championing causes that measure up.”
For her many efforts, Rosenberg has been named Volunteer of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She will be honored at the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon at the Duke Energy Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 12.
Organizations value her participation. As a volunteer fundraiser she has raised more than $80 million for capital and endowment campaigns. She has given countless hours to nonprofits ranging from her faith community, the Isaac M. Wise Temple, to the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra.
The Hyde Park resident said she has gained much more than she has given. Friends. Mentors. A sense of community. And a laser focus on the future.
“When you walk around at Smale Park, I just can’t imagine what it will be like,” she said. Causes she’s become involved in, such as the Cincinnati Preschool Promise, a collaborative whose goal is to ensure every child has access to quality preschool, are aimed at a future that can change things for children as well as their parents – and generations to come.
Her instinct to look to the future was honed when she became an educational diagnostician after graduation from the University of Cincinnati and worked at at Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “What we are doing with the Preschool Promise is a game-changer,” she said. “We are asking tough questions. But we know that if children have access, they will come to school ready to learn and that will change everything for the future.”
Given the child poverty rate in Cincinnati, Rosenberg is a realist with hope. “I worry a lot about the children who are hungry, who don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods and who are not getting the education they need. But we have so many great not-for-profit organizations which are making a difference in our neighborhoods, in education and in the arts… It’s easy to give your time when you believe in what’s happening. And what’s happening is transformational.”
The future is also the focus of her involvement with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. By convening different kinds of groups around issues and enabling donors to have their assets well taken care of, the GCF has become an important institution in this city, she said.
Rosenberg’s generosity of spirit doesn’t stay in the board room or at fundraising events. She is known for her beautiful garden, nestled behind her home, and – since becoming a grandmother two years ago – for her knitted blankets and embroidered samplers. And for her cooking.
“For me, cooking is all about learning,” she said. “And I love to learn. I want to take a pastry class. I want to learn to make babka (a cake traditional to central Europe). I’ve never made Irish food and I want to learn that.”
Which brings her back to her passion for learning all she can about the organizations she supports. “What really drives me is the mission of an organization,” she said. And she wants to know everything so she can share the story of the groups that need support.
“I get to work with such wonderful volunteers and professionals,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of mentors and heroes who are role models for me and I think about what they would say about what I’m doing. I just love to be around talented people and … I love this city.”
About Dianne Rosenberg
Her family: Husband, David, and daughter, Ellie, who lives in Boston. Granddaughter Maren is 2.
Favorite Evening Out: Maybe dinner at Jean-Robert’s Table because “it’s like being at home without being at home. He makes you feel like you are a part of the place.” Followed by a CSO concert. “I feel like I’m going to a Broadway show when I go there.”
What she’s reading: Rosenberg looks forward to each issue of The Atlantic.
What she’s listening to: WGUC in the car, unless she puts in some Billy Joel. “He doesn’t know it, but I’m one of his backup singers.”
What she’s cooking: “I make a mean rugelach (a filled pastry). It took me six recipes before I found one that spoke to me and my palate.”
On slowing down: “About four years ago, I thought I would retire to Florida and golf. That lasted six months. I got a call from a friend who said ‘I have to get you on this board.’”
What gives her strength: “I find strength in my religion,” she said. She is active in the Isaac M. Wise Temple, serving as only the third female president of the congregation. She also takes time to walk in her garden at the beginning and end of most days.
Motto: “Work Hard. Play Hard.”