President/CEO Ellen M. Katz, who came to Greater Cincinnati Foundation from The Children’s Home of Cincinnati in 2015, holds an MA in Psychology from the University of Cincinnati and an MBA from Xavier University. A native of Connecticut, she lives with her husband in Hyde Park and has two grown sons.
Share details of your personal and professional background that helped to guide your path to Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF).
I began my professional career wanting to become a child psychologist. That took me to The Children’s Home of Cincinnati in 1990 — my first exposure to the nonprofit world — and I immediately fell in love with mission-based work. I absolutely loved being in a charitable organization focused on children. While exploring other types of work at The Children’s Home, I found myself to be most successful as an operational leader.
I spent four months on executive loan to GCF prior to becoming CEO of The Children’s Home. I really loved what I experienced at GCF but my 10-year path was set, having accepted the CEO role at The Children’s Home. The timing was perfect for me to make a transition when my GCF predecessor, Kathy Merchant, announced her retirement. I applied and worked really hard to get the job. My husband was blown away by what had come over me. I tend to pour myself into things — but applying for CEO at GCF took that trait to another level.
What are your professional and community affiliations, and how do they inform your role at GCF?
My community affiliations are critical to ensuring GCF is aligned to the needs of our region. I love the time I spend on the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee (CRBC). Being with members of the CRBC helps keep me informed on the needs and interests of our business community — a sector that is absolutely critical to the vitality of our region.
I have a similar experience as a member of the Northern Kentucky Regional Alliance. The business leaders on this board are totally dedicated to the success and vibrancy of Northern Kentucky, and learning from them helps me align the activities of GCF to the core activities and strategy of that integral part of our region. In partnership with our donors, GCF has invested $40 million there over the past two decades.
I have been a board member with Bethesda, Inc. (BI), for a long time and have a fond place in my heart for BI for a number of reasons. First, I appreciate the experience given BI’s bold vision to make our region the healthiest in America. Second, I led the search for BI’s President/CEO, Jill Miller, and we got it so right! She is a fabulous leader and I love supporting her. Third, I was asked as a board member years ago to lead the development of grantmaking initiatives at BI. The investments have been extraordinary!!
Serving on Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) is really interesting. I’m so impressed by the organization and all it has done to revitalize our city — and I appreciate the opportunity to represent the community and to ensure that 3CDC has as much a focus as possible on equitable development.
Being a member of the Child Poverty Collaborative Executive Council has been amazing to me. Trying to address the most intractable issue our community has experienced over many decades is a profound — and extraordinarily complex — undertaking. But I can’t think of anything more important than the health of families to strengthen our community.
Who or what is your inspiration, and in what ways has that driven your passion for GCF’s mission?
My inspiration is driven by the resilience, fortitude and love that I witnessed in the families we served at The Children’s Home and the staff who served them. That experience fueled my desire to do more for our community and its people.
What are three things about you that most people don’t know?
I am an amateur potter. The focus, creativity and community that I experience at Queen City Clay keeps me balanced and inspired. I also have an enormous passion for cooking. When I am able, I spend hours and hours in the kitchen. I’m a bit of an adventurer as well. Double black diamond ski slopes are my friend. I climbed Kilimanjaro. I’ve been skydiving with my sons.
What do you like most about working at GCF?
The bird’s eye view. It’s incredible to have this vantage point on the community — across every sector. The opportunities and needs are both great, and GCF has so many tools at its disposal to address these. The most powerful tool, by far, is our donors.