Katz impact: Equity, housing, growth

Over the next eight months, a lot will likely be written and said about departing Greater Cincinnati Foundation CEO Ellen Katz, who announced last week she will leave the organization early next summer.

But her legacy is already clear, thanks to the organization’s big focus on fixing the Cincinnati region’s racial inequities.

Ellen Katz

The foundation has about $950 million in assets under management as of 2021, a 100% increase since May 2015, when Katz was named CEO. Out of 800 community foundations in the U.S., GCF is the 34th largest, serving an eight-county region across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

GCF granted more than $125 million in 2021, representing 65% growth in the last five years and a record year. GCF has realized 350% growth or $9 million more since 2017 in its “Generous Together” portfolio, which includes its annual fund, co-investing and endorsed investing opportunities.

Since 2015, GCF has deepened its investment and accelerated its focus on racial equity as the best way to deliver on GCF’s mission.

It has increased its board and staff diversity. Its governing board has increased from 15% people of color to 45%. Its staff has increased from 15% people of color to 42%.

GCF has educated more than 2,500 participants in its Racial Equity Matters series, including more than 300 executives and senior community leaders.

It made its two largest investments in its history from the GCF Community Fund, a $1.8 million investment in UpTogether (formerly Family Independence Initiative) and a $5 million establishment of a Racial Justice Fund.

Besides racial equity, another area of focus has been housing. GCF partnered with the Cincinnati Development Fund to create a platform for affordable housing investments, including the establishment of a loan pool that has raised $9 million against an initial goal of $5 million and supported the creation of more than 500 affordable units across seven neighborhoods.

GCF sold in 2019 its building on Fourth Street and moved into the new Westheimer Center for Philanthropy at Sawyer Point and incorporated the Haile Community Hub to offer space for community organizations to come together.

In partnership with Fifth Third Bank, it launched “Giving with Purpose,” a co-branded donor-advised fund platform.

Katz plans to depart GCF by June 2, pending the organization’s hiring of an executive search firm, which will conduct a national search that will also welcome local candidates.

“For me, it is time to explore what’s possible for my next chapter,” said Katz. “I was asked to serve 7-10 years when I started, and I will be leaving after 8 years. We had a vision for what GCF could become under my leadership, and while there is so much more potential, I feel I’ve done what I set out to do. I know the future is bright for GCF to have even more impact. It is an exciting time for someone new to take the lead.”

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