Leading one, serving all
– By Julie Kemble Borths
Christie Brown, CEO of OneSource, likes to say she’s had four careers.
First came the corporate marketing setting. It was “pumps and a suit,” Brown said. Then came motherhood. She stayed at home raising two young children. Next, she helped her husband, Alan, build Photonics – an agency specializing in web design and branding. Now, her career is about “making a difference,” a direction fueled by her work in an international charity and sparked by a strong formation in social justice.
When Brown made the move to an organization known as ReSource in 2015, she knew that the work – serving other nonprofits with seminars and access to donated corporate furniture – would combine her skills and talents. After all, she had worked in the corporate world, had built a family-owned business and had headed a U.S.-Guatemalan charity.
Her expansive background led her to embrace an opportunity that emerged shortly after she joined the organization – Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati, which paired expert volunteer consultants to nonprofits, was looking for a partner. Brown saw an advantageous match. Now, just two years later, she leads the newly rebranded OneSource, merging the donated corporate goods ReSource had been known for with ESCC’s consulting, training and coaching expertise to area nonprofits.
“To move the needle, to really have an impact, we have to collaborate more. We want our nonprofit community to be a national model … because we can do more if we work together.”
David Wallace, chair of the OneSource board and a OneSource volunteer consultant, said the merger was eased by Brown’s vision. “She saw how we could develop to serve. She has a big picture understanding and can say, ‘Here’s why it’s important to do these things.’ ”
Brown jokes that her board may tire of her constantly percolating ideas, but Wallace, an attorney with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, said those ideas consistently pay off because she never forgets the purpose of the organization.
To that end, Brown noted that everything OneSource does revolves around building stronger nonprofits. “With the merger, we can go so much broader and so much deeper,” she said. “We really want to support the nonprofit community so it can do its best work.”
Anita Ingram joined Brown in a recent Leadership Cincinnati class and worked closely with her as an accountability partner. Ingram, assistant vice president and chief risk officer for the University of Cincinnati, said it’s easy to see that Brown “is an invested person.”
“But it’s more than that … she’s a great thinker. She is organized, flexible,” Ingram said. And, citing a project they worked on together, Ingram noted Brown’s particular brand of leadership. “She could just say, ‘Here’s what we’ll do,’ but she reaches out to others.”
Brown said her leadership style has always been one of collaboration – and there’s never been a better time to collaborate with nonprofits. Cincinnati’s historic commitment to philanthropy is meeting some nationally ranked challenges: child mortality, poverty, homelessness and the opioid crisis, to name a few.
“To move the needle, to really have an impact, we have to collaborate more,” Brown said. “We want our nonprofit community to be a national model … because we can do more if we work together.”
From Brown’s point of view, working with dozens of community organizations, every single one is motivated by doing good. But while some have expertise in one area, others have expertise in another. Brown wants to work “in a holistic, committed way” to solidify partnerships and make sure groups have the tools they need – from humble staplers and desk chairs to more robust leadership. And with more than 100 consultants to offer expertise to organizations, as well as seminars and other programming, Brown said OneSource can help “build up” individual nonprofits for a “better community for us all.” ν
Who is Christie Brown?
Home: Anderson Township
Family: Husband, Alan, two children and one granddaughter
Motivating quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” often credited to Gandhi
Pastime: Biking on the Loveland Bike Trail or playing with granddaughter Frankie
Travel: This summer she spent 10 days in Montana and Idaho. “I’m trying to get to all 50 states. This will only leave Hawaii, Alaska and Iowa.”
Perfect evening: “Just the other weekend, we went to an art show, a brewery in OTR and tried out a new restaurant, Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey. Another part of perfection would have been going to Washington Park to watch the kids playing in the water.”
Listening to: Brown likes the quiet in her car, but often listens to George Winston.
Reading: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander and “Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race” by Debby Irving
What she’s thinking about: “The difference between charity and justice. Charity is for the short term. Justice is for the long term. And we need them both.”