Increasing the volume in enriching young lives
If you listen to Cincinnati Public Radio, you have likely heard of the Charles H. Dater Foundation. Promotional spots run throughout the year, rotating mentions of the more than 150 nonprofits in which the foundation invests. Given the nearly anonymous beginnings of the foundation, this purposeful public presence is representative of just how far things have come since its creation in 1985.
Charles H. Dater, a fourth-generation Cincinnatian, was a quiet man of simple tastes. Despite his considerable wealth, he lived in a modest West Side home and drove everyman cars until they ceased to run. And when he could no longer drive he chose to ride the bus. He and his wife often dined at Frisch’s.
Having been thrust into running the family business at the age of 17, upon the death of his father, the younger Dater learned early and quickly about managing money and residential real estate. He amassed a small fortune, but with no children of his own, in his early 70s he chose to establish a foundation to carry on the family name and enrich the lives of other people’s children.
Bruce Krone – now president, secretary and director of the Dater Foundation – was a young lawyer in his father’s firm, Eichel & Krone, when Dater came to them for advice and they suggested a foundation. “We started small. We started with little, itty-bitty grants.”
In fact, grants totaled less than $10,000 in each of the first two years. But last fiscal year, in 2022-23, Dater’s 158 grants totaled $5,750,000, spanning arts and culture, education, health care and social services, among other community needs.
The advantage of being public
Charles Dater preferred his generosity to remain anonymous, but Krone and fellow directors came to realize over the years that making others aware of their community investments has the potential to encourage the generosity of others. That is why Dater provides funding to give visibility to organizations it supports.
Many of the nonprofits Dater funds are well-established entities, such as the Cincinnati Zoo, Freestore Foodbank, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Taft Museum of Art. This past year, the two largest grants went to the Greater Cincinnati Foundation for their Summertime Kids and Learning Links programs and to The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, supporting the Emery Theater renovation. But there remains a willingness to back new ventures, as well, such as helping launch Crayons to Computers, Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, Changing Gears and Last Mile Food Rescue.
Regarding the decision to fund Last Mile, “It just seemed to make so much sense,” said Roger Ruhl, vice president, director and head of communications for Dater. “Over here, you’ve got people who are throwing away food, restaurants and kitchens. And over here, you have people who are hungry. Now, doesn’t it seem like we’ve got to find a way to get the food from here over to here? And they solved that.”
The common thread in choosing to support new ventures, according to Ruhl, a former advertising executive, involves a track record of success and a clearly stated mission. “I come from the marketing side, so I’ve said to many, ‘You need to learn how to tell your story better’.”
Four nonprofits nominated the Dater Foundation for 2023: Bethany House, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Santa Maria Community Services and the Taft Museum of Art.
Priority on ‘getting the kids educated’
According to Daniel Flynn, chief development officer of Bethany House, “The Dater Foundation’s support has allowed Bethany House to grow its children’s programming … to the point where Bethany House now offers substantially more services for kids than any other peer organization.”
H.A. Musser, president and CEO of Santa Maria Community Services, echoed these remarks: “The foundation’s belief in the potential of youth and their commitment to providing them with the necessary tools for success has been instrumental in transforming lives and creating a brighter future for the community.”
When questioned about future priorities, Krone spoke about recovering from the effects of the pandemic on children. “It’s just getting the kids educated. The kids in COVID had a tough way to go, and they’re going to need a lot of special push. And whatever they fell down on during COVID, they’re going to need to either pick up, or they might just forget it.”
Jennifer Horvath, director of development for the Taft Museum, credited Dater with recognizing “the importance of continuing to support all philanthropic causes … while many others shifted resourcing primarily to social services (during the pandemic). Because of their support, the Taft was able to continue programming … providing virtual programming when schools were remote and going directly into schools when they reopened but couldn’t make the time for extracurricular field trips.”
Krone believes the future of philanthropy is bright. “As organizations get better at refining their programming and explaining their purpose, mission and the good work they do, I think it’s natural that support will follow and their capacity will increase.”
2023 National Philanthropy Day luncheon
Thursday, Nov. 16, Music Hall Ballroom
Presented by AFP Cincinnati, the luncheon recognizes individuals and organizations for their contributions to Greater Cincinnati nonprofits. Networking: 11 a.m. Program and luncheon: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Tickets: $100 (nonprofit) and $150 (corporate).