Leading with his heart and a ‘giving gene’
– By Julie Kemble Borths
When David E. Herche began his career at Arthur Andersen, his first boss and mentor told him doing his best at work was not enough. “He told me, ‘You need to do more,’” Herche recalled. His mentor was – and is – Dave Phillips, who went on to co-found the nonprofit Cincinnati Works in 1996.
Herche (pronounced like the candy bar) discovered that Cincinnati Works spoke powerfully to him as well, and he began to work on the growing agency’s board 17 years ago.
Cincinnati Works coaches chronically unemployed men and women as they get the training they need and begin jobs throughout the community. Herche liked how Cincinnati Works helped residents “get back into society”.
On Nov. 9, Herche will be honored as Philanthropist of the Year at the annual National Philanthropy Day luncheon hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Tickets are $65, available until Oct. 30 at tinyurl.com/2017NPD
Herche was nominated, according to Cincinnati Works President and Chief Executive Peggy Zink, not only for his generosity, but also for his passion.
“His passion is unmatched,” she said. “He cares about our mission and is able to talk about Cincinnati Works across the incredible network he has, from a business meeting to a social event. He raises our visibility in the C-suite.”
Herche said he never misses a chance to talk about Cincinnati Works. At a party, he suggested some other guests take up a challenge to give a dollar a day to support the organization’s work with job coaching and training efforts.
Sure enough, the organization received some checks for $365.
He persuades others the same way he became a believer himself: by looking at the evidence.
Herche, who employs more than 3,000 workers as chairman of Enerfab Inc. and executive chairman of West Chester Protective Gear, has seen the impact of a slim workforce. “The jobs are here,” he said. “There’s just not enough people.”
And, he said, “Our largest unutilized asset in our city is the chronically unemployed. We have got to figure this out.”
In its 20 years of existence, Cincinnati Works has made an economic impact on the community of at least $35 million. But Herche said that’s just the beginning.
“The real impact is on their children and those families,” he said. “Those children will now have role models in their lives.”
Learning about poverty changed his perspective about a number of things. Herche talks passionately about how difficult it can be for someone in poverty to just get to work when transportation options are limited, not to mention having no back-up support and insecure housing. “A lot of us don’t have to think about these things,” he said. “We have a car, a home and someone to call if we need help.”
Cincinnati Works helps participants figure out how to develop strategies for these necessities, as well as a job. This holistic approach is why Herche invests in Cincinnati Works.
At the heart of Cincinnati Works are coaches who work with clients individually. “A lot of unemployed people have given up hope, and they need to see a path forward,” Herche said. “That’s where a coach comes in.”
Coaches connect clients to services like day care and housing so they have stability in their lives. They identify ways to deal with what others might consider everyday bumps in the road, like a sick child or a broken-down car. And Herche said if a person remains employed for that first year with a coach, he or she is likely to continue working.
Herche has seen that approach work so well that he planted a coach at his own company, where he was experiencing 50 percent turnover. Employees could volunteer to work with the coach who, in turn, helped them figure out support systems, transportation, housing and other issues that are not usually part of workplace discussions.
Herche said his company saw results within three months.
Not only could employees solve nagging problems that interfered with their work, they also “saw that we cared about them,” he said.
Herche is proud that Cincinnati Works collaborates with other organizations in the city to help strengthen the community. For example, it has been involved in the Poverty Collaborative.
“We have a goal to move 5,000 families out of poverty in the next five years,” he said. “And by working together, we can deliver that.”
Zink said Herche’s enthusiasm and optimism “brings others in.”
“He is a credible advocate because he leads the way,” she said.
But Herche, who also supports other organizations such as Talbert House, UCATS and Cincinnati Athletic Club, said he can be frustrated when he tries to persuade others to give – and they don’t have the “giving gene.”
“You need to have a heart,” Herche said. “I hope people can see that they can run out of time before they run out of money.”