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Nonprofit Leadership Initiative guides UC faculty and staff onto nonprofit boards

Findings Staff Report | Aug. 13, 2021

University of Cincinnati Associate Professor Michael Jones has devoted his life’s work to nonprofits and he’s got a challenge for his fellow UC colleagues.

Michael Jones, College of Business 2021 As a professor of economics at UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business, Jones has published articles such as “Why the World Still Needs Nonprofits” and given speeches like "The Nonprofit Landscape” and “Economic Trends in Cincinnati" to groups that include the United Way and Leadership Ohio. He's measured the economic impact of many nonprofits in the region and currently serves on the board of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank.

All of this to say he’s got a good grasp of Greater Cincinnati’s nonprofit sector and when Jones looked around UC, he felt there were many missed opportunities.

UC has so much untapped talent that could be put to use out in the community,” says Jones, Ph.D. “During the COVID-19 crisis, nonprofit organizations played a critical role in relief efforts for those adversely affected by the pandemic. In the Cincinnati metro area alone, there are thousands of public charities that collectively hold more than $20 billion in assets. Our region needs capable and dedicated individuals, like UC faculty and staff, to serve their community on a nonprofit’s board of directors.”

A couple of years ago, Jones began hearing about the university’s overall mission, Next Lives Here. With Next Lives Here, UC wants to lead urban public universities into a new era of innovation and impact, offer educational experiences and conduct research of all kinds that have real world impact. A program that matches UC experts with nonprofits that benefit the community seemed fitting, Jones thought.

He approached Associate Vice President for Research Jennifer Krivickas, in charge of the OoR’s strategic initiatives and signature programs, with his idea and the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative was born. Krivickas later graduated from the program.

In the first year of the program’s launch, the initiative paid for her and 11 others to attend Leadership Council for Nonprofits Board Orientation + Leadership Development program (BOLD), a nine-week program that drills down into nonprofit governance, finance, fundraising, cultural competency and other topics any new board member should grasp.

The Nonprofit Leadership Initiative has committed to funding the program for interested UC faculty and staff in each BOLD session going forward.
Logo for Nonprofits Board Orientation + Leadership Development program

BOLD is offered by the Leadership Council for Nonprofits—a Greater Cincinnati nonprofit trade group, of sorts. The council represents more than 250 local nonprofits with a combined 17,000-plus employees; organizations that provide an economic impact of more than $1 billion in Greater Cincinnati.

The following UC staff and faculty have completed the program:

  • Michael Archdeacon, chair of the department of orthopedic surgery at the College of Medicine and CEO of UC Physicians
  • Adriana Bitoun, executive director of advancement services at the University of Cincinnati Foundation
  • Maureen (Mo) Buri, assistant professor of fine arts
  • Asawari Deshmukh, assistant professor of economics
  • Prince Ellis, associate professor of economics
  • Sam Groh, assistant professor of computer science
  • Michelle Johns, assistant professor of management
  • Michelle Kirschner, nurse practitioner in the College of Medicine
  • Jennifer Krivickas, associate vice president for research, strategic initiatives and signature programs at the Office of Research
  • Heather Nester, assistant professor in career education
  • Rebecca Olson, assistant director academic at UC Libraries Research & Data Services
  • David Zellen, assistant director of innovation-startups at the Office of Innovation

Many of these faculty and staff are now serving on nonprofit boards, including the African Professionals Network, A Voice for the Innocent, World Affairs Council, Jewish Home of Cincinnati and Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank.

The Nonprofit Leadership Initiative is supported by the Office of Research and UC’s Kautz-Uible Economics Institute—that support includes a research component, and this is where students get into the mix, Jones says.

So far, student researchers with the Kautz-Uible Economics Institute have helped conduct a COVID-19 economic impact research study on the nonprofit sector in Ohio and Cincinnati. Student research associates also produced a publicly available dashboard that contains information about every nonprofit in the region. “By providing data about the number of nonprofits like food banks and homeless shelters,” Jones says, “It can be a resource someone can consult when thinking about joining or starting a nonprofit.”

The NPLI and other initiatives, including the Community Change Collaborative, which matches up UC researchers with outside community partners to conduct participatory research, are some of the ways UC is gaining ground on its Research2030 goals, says Vice President for Research Pat Limbach.

“When we connect with, get to know and become a part of the region’s network of nonprofits we create a feedback loop that is invaluable,” Limbach says. “We can get to know our community better, strengthen the regions nonprofits, support the greater community and the research it needs.”

To learn more about the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative contact Jones at m.jones@uc.edu or visit the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative website.