Parks Foundation promotes longtime executive director to CEO

The Cincinnati Parks Foundation promoted its longtime executive director, Jennifer Hafner Spieser, to the role of president and CEO. 

Spieser re-joined the Cincinnati Parks Foundation in 2015 after spending eight years in a development and communications role for the Cincinnati Fire Department. She previously worked for the foundation from 2004 to 2007.

The Cincinnati Parks Foundation is a nonprofit and the official philanthropic partner of Cincinnati Parks, a city department. The foundation raises funds, advocates for the local parks system and supports programs focused on connecting people to nature.

In announcing the staffing move, Dan Vogelpohl, the foundation’s outgoing board president, praised Spieser for “her proven track record” in both fundraising and community engagement.

Jennifer Hafner Spieser at a ribbon-cutting for the Smale Park expansion

Under Spieser’s guidance, the Cincinnati Parks Foundation has raised more than $30 million. In 2023, her fundraising leadership resulted in an additional $2 million in donations. This year, $1.93 million in funds went to support continued park improvements and programming.

Spieser played a role in several major Cincinnati Parks projects. Those include the expansion of Smale Riverfront Park, the addition of an accessible and inclusive playground at Mt. Auburn’s Inwood Park and the revitalization of Ezzard Charles Park in Cincinnati’s West End neighborhood.

As executive director, Spieser spearheaded several foundation initiatives, including the be.well adaptive hiking program. The partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital won a Governor’s Award in 2022 from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association. She also led the creation of the Neighborhood Parks Campaign in 2018, which focuses on the improvement and programming of neighborhood parks.

Vogelpohl described Spieser as positioning the foundation for continued growth and impact in “support of Cincinnati’s historic park system.”

A new era of growth and impact for Cincy Parks

In her newly expanded role, Spieser and her team will work to raise money for the renovation of the roller rink at Sawyer Point. Other campaigns are the restoration of Ault Park’s historic cascading foundation and continued improvements to Glenway Park in Price Hill. 

As CEO, Spieser will work with her team to bring free events and programming to Cincinnati’s five regional parks, 70 neighborhood parks and 34 natural areas. The foundation also plans to undertake several green initiatives, including litter cleanups and the planting of more than 1,000 trees across the city.

Incoming Board President Brian Tiffany with Jennifer Hafner Spieser at Inwood Park

Brian Tiffany – the foundation’s incoming board president – praised Spieser for her exceptional leadership and vision in her more than eight years with the organization. He also noted her dedication to the foundation’s mission of “preserving, enhancing, and promoting Cincinnati’s parks and green spaces throughout all 52 city neighborhoods.”

Spieser is poised to lead the foundation into a new era of growth and impact, Tiffany said. He called her an “unofficial ambassador” for Cincinnati’s park system.

“Jennifer is a natural collaborator and has created new partnerships to help connect neighborhoods to their local parks,” he added. “Her work has established programs and improvements that make parks increasingly more accessible and more welcoming to all.”

Cincinnati Parks Foundation