Western & Southern – Investing in a stronger Cincinnati

Ed Babbitt, secretary/treasurer, Western & Southern Financial Fund, with Kim Chiodi, senior vice president, public relations and corporate communications, Western & Southern Financial Group

Ed Babbitt, secretary/treasurer, Western & Southern Financial Fund, with Kim Chiodi, senior vice president, public relations and corporate communications, Western & Southern Financial Group

Page through almost any issue of Movers & Makers, and you’ll encounter the Western & Southern Financial Group brand, its family of companies, its foundation or their associates. Through annual contributions of approximately $10 million in each of the past five years, W&S is powerfully invested and involved in the region’s nonprofit community – as sponsors, donors, honorees, board members, event chairs and volunteers. 

As someone recently commented about W&S’s presence within the sector, “They’re everywhere.”

Western & Southern Financial Group is a family of companies headquartered in downtown Cincinnati. Through its 3,400 employees, W&S offers financial services through 130 offices across 23 states, with 2017 total revenue at a record $3.8 billion. The company celebrates its 130th anniversary this year.

The company’s longevity provides a powerful clue as to why W&S continues to invest so heavily in building a strong, successful community.

Community impact

That investment is readily seen in one of its signature events, the Western & Southern Open. The August tournament ranks among the world’s 10 most important tennis events. It’s the main vehicle for projecting the W&S brand and its commitment to Cincinnati to an international audience. The Open’s primary beneficiary is Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“Through the W&S Open, they’ve contributed millions to our cancer program,” said James Saporito, senior vice president of development at Cincinnati Children’s. “Thanks to their support, we are able to provide lifelong follow-up care to survivors of childhood cancer.”

Major Everett L. Henry III, general secretary of the Salvation Army Southwest Ohio & Northeast Kentucky Division, reported that visitors’ donations to the “Crib of the Nativity” display at the Krohn Conservatory each December are matched by the W&S Financial Fund, the company’s nonprofit foundation. And for many years, he added, W&S has helped more than 60 families through its Adopt-a-Family program, “providing a joy-filled Christmas morning.”

W&S also contributes talent in the form of volunteers, mentors and board members, often on company time. “We want our people to follow their passion,” said Kim Chiodi, W&S senior vice president for public relations and corporate communications. “But as an organization, we also want to make sure we are putting our resources behind the things that matter to us.”

Michelle Steed, development director for Ronald McDonald House, beneficiary of the Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day Race, expressed her appreciation for W&S volunteers: “From cleaning common spaces to supporting our largest fundraisers, we are grateful that W&S employees take the time to dig into our mission and fully understand what they are supporting. It makes a real difference when you can see that a group is committed to what they are doing and believes strongly in it.” 

What nonprofits need to know

Ed Babbitt, secretary/treasurer of the Western & Southern Financial Fund, described applying for support as an informal process with no forms to fill out. Submit a letter or an email making your case: “What do you want? What are you funding? Who is it going to help?”

While the foundation funds many projects, the process is highly selective. Chiodi suggests that requests be specific and clear. “Give us a one-pager, but make sure you include ‘the ask.’ Don’t make us guess,” she said.

Because of an increasing desire to better understand the impact of W&S philanthropic investments, Chiodi encourages organizations to be systematic in their approach to an event or project. “Data is very important to us,” she said. “We like to see nonprofits set goals, measure results and then report on those results.” 

It is also important that the benefits of this philanthropy flow both ways. “We want to be a partner in working with nonprofits,” Babbitt said, not just a writer of checks. 

Underscoring how much W&S has to gain by being publicly associated with respected causes and organizations, Chiodi added, “We want to be recognized for what we are doing for this city.”

Mission and vision

The Western & Southern Financial Fund was established in 1988 to support medical research, medical institutions and higher education. Those goals have expanded over the years to include the arts and other aspects of the region’s cultural richness.

“We have a vision that Cincinnati will be the best place to work, live and enjoy life,” said Chiodi. “And to achieve that, you have to have certain things: great economic development, a great medical system, a strong educational system and a high quality of life – the arts, sports, parks, etc.”

A ‘company with purpose’

According to Jose Marques, W&S advertising and media relations manager, “We need our community to be strong to attract new talent.”

Chiodi, who worked in human resources at W&S before taking over PR and communications last year, knows this to be true. She has noticed changes in the attitudes of job candidates of all ages, especially in the past five years or so. 

“Candidates, 75 percent or more, want to work for a company that gives back. It is a significant element in how we attempt to attract talent. The first question used to be, ‘How much do you pay?’ Now they ask, ‘Are you a company with purpose, and how do you interact with the community?’ ”

Western & Southern key sponsorships

Western & Southern Open tennis tourney benefits Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute and the Paul & Carolyn Flory Fund for cancer-related initiatives.

Western & Southern/WEBN Fireworks at Riverfest hosts the Freestore Foodbank Rubber Duck Regatta, plus affords other nonprofits an opportunity to hold viewing fundraisers.

Western & Southern Thanksgiving Day Race benefits Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati and 10 other organizations.

Crib of the Nativity, a free holiday display at Krohn Conservatory, benefits The Salvation Army.

Walk MS benefits National Multiple Sclerosis Society/Ohio Valley Chapter.

Ride Cincinnati raises funds in support of the UC Cancer Institute and its effort to bring the coveted National Cancer Institute designation to Cincinnati.

2017 Western & Southern community support by sector

Economic development: $4,000,000

Human services: $2,241,790

Education: $1,295,150

Healthcare: $1,247,224

Arts: $1,202,419

Community: $675,658

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