Matthew Randazzo harnesses balance, passion for GCF role

Armed with experience leading Texas’ first community foundation, as well as years advancing educational equity, new CEO tackles the question: How can GCF meet this moment and beyond?

For Matthew Randazzo, balance is key. Maintaining it is essential to his success and satisfaction as a business leader, philanthropist and family man.

That sense of equilibrium will be foundational in his position as president and CEO of Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF), the region’s leading community foundation. Randazzo stepped into the role on July 17 following a robust nationwide search to name a successor to Ellen Katz.

“I’m a fairly balanced head and heart guy,” he said. “I’m analytical but relational. We need a healthy tension to change the lives of people living in poverty and crisis: We have to come up with solutions, but we have to have heart.”

Randazzo was drawn to that opportunity, and responsibility, to change lives by building on the deep relationships GCF has grown over its 60 years with donors, partners and the community. GCF’s track record on leading community improvement, advancing equity and finding scalable solutions is leading-edge in community philanthropy, he said.

“The equity work, affordable housing work, impact investing, affiliated organizations – the Women’s Fund, Health Path and All-In Cincinnati – and the quality of the team and commitment of the board are really meaningful,” Randazzo said.

His background in community philanthropy and educational equity honed his passion for scaling operations and impact.

While he was president and CEO of The Dallas Foundation, a $570 million community foundation, the organization achieved record growth in assets under management and annual contributions, nearly tripling annual revenue and doubling annual grantmaking.

That growth-minded leadership style is no mere assets play. Again, balance is key. It’s not about measuring exclusively through a balance sheet but measuring through community effectiveness – moving the needle on issues that matter and deploying assets against the challenges that disrupt people’s lives. It’s not just assets under management, he said, but also assets under influence.  

Prior to leading The Dallas Foundation, Randazzo spent 15 years in educational equity. As CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), he and his team focused on creating opportunities for children in poverty, low-income students and the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities, keenly aware that for too many children the quality of their education is inextricably linked to their ZIP code. Here, too, he seized the opportunity to scale. Launched as a collection of three Dallas-based organizations, NMSI is now a national force across 34 states.

“I’m a growth guy. I love it. I like scale. So, game on!” he said of the opportunity to scale impact at GCF.

Randazzo’s approach has also been shaped by his learnings as a member of the 10th class of the prestigious Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Children and Family Fellowship. With its focus on creating equitable outcomes for families of color and families in poverty, the fellowship has afforded him the opportunity for deeper exploration on racial equity. In 2021, he participated in Casey fellowships focused on driving outcomes as a white leader, digging deep on questions including, “What does it look like to show up as a white leader in equity work?”

In his ongoing pursuit of balance – excitement with rigor, growth with sustainability, strategic vision with tactical execution – Randazzo’s move to GCF provides balance, too, in his personal life. He and his wife, Gitu – who immigrated from India to pursue her doctorate education and runs a successful psychology practice – are thrilled to raise their 8-year-old son, Grayson, in the Midwest.

The move brings them closer to family: Randazzo is a native of Detroit, while his wife has family in Cleveland. Cincinnati’s sensibility appealed to them, and its rich arts, cultural and environmental assets. (“This city punches way above its weight!”). The region’s size, too – 2.2 million people vs. nearly 8 million in Dallas – feels right. It’s a major American city, he said, but feels approachable.

Perhaps nowhere is Randazzo’s pursuit of balance more important than in his family. Undoubtedly, he’s committed to his vision for GCF and has hit the ground running – building connections with the team and community; meeting with donors; and strategizing the next 100 days, next year and beyond. But he won’t sacrifice closeness with his wife and son, “the sun to my solar system.”

“I do drop-off at school every day,” Randazzo said. “I put Grayson to bed almost every night. We read together and ‘chitty-chat’ about our day. I like to be an involved leader, but I hold those boundaries around my family, because that is not something I had growing up.”

His complex early story shapes his personal and professional lives, but he’s only been comfortable speaking publicly about it in recent years. The family experienced “every ill of poverty” – addiction, housing insecurity, domestic violence.

Even in those struggles, Randazzo sees the light and luck afforded to him, thanks to grandparents who stepped in and teachers, coaches and mentors who “helped me see a vision for my future that was so much larger than I could dream.”

Randazzo would never presume his story gives him inside knowledge of the struggles of those GCF serves – particularly those facing racial inequity. But it affords him compassion for those in crisis and passion for community foundations.

“It’s a beautiful dance community philanthropy allows you to do. How do you balance relationships and results? Scale with meaningful impact?” he said. “We need an urgency that matches the urgency of the people experiencing challenge.

“That drives me every day: We cannot forget that end size of one person when we talk about moving the needle for the 2.2M people in this region.”

With vision, passion and, of course, balance, Randazzo is ready to keep moving that needle.