Greater Cincinnati Foundation COO Dora Anim, a native of Ghana and the daughter of a diplomat stationed at UNESCO, grew up in Paris. She received her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Cincinnati and lives in Sharonville with her husband and four children. As she said, “I married a Cincinnatian, and people like to say, ‘That means you’re stuck! You’re not leaving — ever.’”
Share details of your personal and professional background that helped to guide your path to Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF).
I worked at a couple of different places as a consultant and then at Greater Cincinnati Health Council, which became the Health Collaborative. Consulting work was really a challenging environment, and it taught me to really think on my feet. It also taught me to look at a lot of information at a very high level and to just simplify and synthesize complex issues. I realized that relationships are the foundation of anything — without that I didn’t have the trust of the client, my team, so I learned to invest the time to build relationships because it will pay off. I think having my first career as a consultant taught me some principles that I’ve applied along the way.
In many ways I feel like a consultant for GCF. I thrive on problem-solving; I don’t get discouraged by things. I embrace challenges; as I tell my kids, they make you better, they make you stronger, they make you wiser. If you don’t have them, then you don’t really get to practice different muscles that help you build resilience. Everything is opportunity. I think also I inherited some of my father’s diplomacy, he just had a way with words that I try to emulate.
I also realized that I’m somewhat of a change agent, because even at the Health Collaborative, I was there 14 years and I changed roles five times. I’m constantly thinking of, “What’s next?” That’s just how my mind works. So, it’s interesting that all paths have led me here because I’m able to apply all the parts of my career here.
The Health Collaborative was a really interesting place because I was responsible for building consensus around competitors. That was really hard to do but it also helped me understand that everybody has a perspective that matters and how you bring it together so that everybody feels heard — and then develop a path forward and navigate through personalities, frustrations, egos and competing interests – is key. We did some great work there.
What are your professional and community affiliations, and how do they inform your role at GCF?
I’ve completed nearly every leadership program of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce (WE Lead, C-Change, WE Succeed, Leadership Cincinnati) and the Urban League’s Urban Leader Institute program. I’m on the board of several organizations: Springer School, the Council on Aging, Episcopal Retirement Homes. These are organizations that are kind of in transition and have a lot of interesting growth going on. I like being part of that and helping influence that.
Who or what is your inspiration, and in what ways has that driven your passion for GCF’s mission?
I always say my mother, for sure. She was an interesting mix of grace, compassion, strength and just calm, there was something about her that was just radiant and I always admired that. People just gravitated towards her very positively. I just admire that you can have all those qualities in one and it can be positive, you can be strong and not rude and not nasty and not raise your voice. She just taught me that balance that you can be all the good things at once. That’s what I teach my kids, I think that that’s our role in life is to just take the good and the best of everyone that you meet and make it your own, and that’s what I tried to do with her.
Career-wise, I’ve always worked with really smart women and I’ve always had smart women bosses. I feel like they’ve all helped shape and influence me. When I was a consultant, one of the senior project managers, Nancy Vogel, was the first person who said, “you just do it your way, kid,” and I just loved that. At the council I worked with folks like Nancy Strassel and Colleen O’Toole, and they always were inclusive. That’s why I really enjoy working with Ellen — it continues that legacy of strong, smart women that I’ve really enjoyed working with and that I really appreciate learning from. I just think that you’re a student for life and so you should be constantly learning, and I really feel that from her. Smart women that I’ve worked for, and side by side with, are an inspiration as well, but Mom first.
What are three things about you that most people don’t know?
I really enjoy cooking extravagant meals, I just don’t have time to do it. I like to mix things up. Being from Ghana and France, I like to mix those different cuisines up; I have American kids; and I like to elevate flavors.
I’m very clumsy. At one point I use to constantly run into walls and drop everything.
My parents were friends with Richard Nixon and Shirley Temple. My dad, being a diplomat, met different heads of state and he and Nixon hit it off. I have pictures of Nixon in our house. Shirley Temple was the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, so he, as a high official, got to spend time with her and we also have pictures of her in our house, although I can’t remember meeting her.
What do you like most about working at GCF?
There wasn’t a COO before me (at GCF), so I was the first. The challenge and the opportunity are super exciting to me: the potential of this foundation to really have a transformative effect on the community when you can combine resources with need; I just love that you can strategize about it in a different way, being more intentional to do greater and bigger things. I also love the view that we have from the community’s perspective to understand things at a high and wide level. We get to have access to health care, employers, education, nonprofits and donors — all the stakeholders literally are connected to the foundation and that makes what is possible impactful. The beauty of the whole community comes together here. It’s an organization with such a wonderful history and reputation that plays such an important role in the community, and I’m just honored to be part of it and support taking it to the next level.
And then I just love my coworkers. I love what we’re doing, our direction and the energy. I love how different people are here — everyone brings something unique to the table from where they’ve been. It’s a wonderfully diverse group of individuals that I also learn from and I’m humbled to work with daily.