|Leadership Northern Kentucky participants learned about the $25,000 grant challenge from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation during a luncheon for program alumni and new members.|
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor
For the first time, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) has awarded Leadership Northern Kentucky (LNK), a grant for $25,000 through its Northern Kentucky Fund. LNK is a program of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce designed to provide opportunities for young area professionals to build leadership skills.
The newly selected class of 2020 has been charged by the Fund to create criteria and select an area nonprofit to receive the money.
RELATED: Leadership Northern Kentucky Welcomes New Program Participants.
"Leadership Northern Kentucky uses the community as a classroom to develop leaders who will effectively serve our region. The goal of the Giving Challenge is to educate the class about community needs and solutions – it is meant to get them thinking about how they can give back while providing a mechanism for them to do that," explained Laura Menge, senior philanthropic advisor for the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
Menge is also an alum and the chair of the Leadership Northern Kentucky program and was instrumental in bringing the two entities together. Through the process of identifying and selecting a nonprofit, class members will build invaluable skills that they will take with them into the future, she said.
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"The class will be asked to prioritize their funding goals, understand all sides of a social issue, use effective and persuasive communication, make tough decisions and be accountable. Leadership is about team collaboration and determining how to best leverage resources for maximum impact."
Taking on the challenge
Fifty-one individuals were selected this year to participate in Leadership Northern Kentucky through an application process. Those selected come from a wide range of private businesses, public entities and nonprofit organizations from across the region.
The group meets at least once a month for about nine months. The goal of the current class will be to work together over the course of the term to identify and select a nonprofit by spring 2020. The roster of the current participants was only recently announced, and they learned of the grant at their first group meeting last week at a luncheon with program alumni.
"This is an exciting opportunity. That amount of money has the potential to change lives depending on the nonprofit we select," said member Will Johnson, a business developer for Cincinnati-based Messer Construction Co.
Since the group just met together for the first time, he said he looks forward to an upcoming overnight retreat at Camp Joy in mid-September where the group can discuss and share their ideas.
He is already thinking about the challenge. "The company I work for gives multiple grants similar to this each year, so I have learned a bit about the process and I hope to bring some of those best practices to the group."
The opportunity is daunting as well as exciting, he added. "It will be a big undertaking, but it will be rewarding once we get through the process. It’s going to be great!"
Building skills while serving the community
Johnson lives in Newport and has been with Messer for 12 years. He participated in a similar program for young leaders about five years ago through the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. He said he found the friendships and business relationships he made through that program invaluable, so when the opportunity to participate in Leadership Northern Kentucky came up, he applied.
Johnson said he is looking forward to working with the other leaders on the grant project and to learning more about local nonprofits. One goal of the class will be to build a greater understanding of the Northern Kentucky professional and philanthropic community, and all the good happening in our area.
Menge said she looks forward to seeing how the class of 2020 meets the grant challenge. "We’ve pulled together some of the greatest emerging and existing leaders for this class, and we are excited to see how they will come together around this activity and make a significant impact...LNK is also partnering with Cincinnati Cares to link the class members with volunteer and nonprofit board service opportunities."
This fits well with the goal of the program to provide participants with an opportunity that will resonate throughout the community. "Our vision for this class is that they will personally and professionally connect with those organizations and support them in ways that will go well beyond this year and these dollars. We intend for this class to leave a legacy of generosity and community investment that will inspire future classes to do the same."