Philanthropy Lies at the Heart of Human Greatness

Philanthropy Lies at the Heart of Human Greatness

Dear Readers:

We are fortunate to live in a very generous, philanthropy-focused, volunteer-oriented community.

Cincinnati fights way above its weight class when it comes to quality of life and human services, and that is possible because of the extraordinary generosity and voluntary leadership of the many compassionate, engaged people who live and work here.

Consider, for example, the high caliber of our arts and cultural organizations. We have the encyclopedic Cincinnati Art Museum, the Taft Museum that offers the classics and the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), one of the first modern art institutions in the United States. And we have the exceptional Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, one of only 15 remaining full-time symphony orchestras in our country.

We have these hugely thriving, quality arts and culture organizations because people here are generous; when asked, they give. When asked, they take the lead.

Skystone Partners believes that philanthropy lies at the heart of human greatness. Committed to philanthropy and to expanding its influence here and around the world, we look at fundraising as a noble profession. As such, our role as consultants is to help nonprofit organizations increase their value to society through philanthropy. In addition to arts and cultural organizations, we establish partnerships with civic and community organizations, colleges and universities, hospitals and other health agencies, social service organizations and many other nonprofits.

We help charitable organizations maximize their already-strong aspects. In other words, nonprofits seek our help at important junctures in their development, when they are about to embark upon something remarkable they’ve never done before. We offer an array of services, including studies and assessments, capital campaigns, annual funds and strategic planning. Through our coaching, training, mentoring and ongoing education of staff, and through directing and guiding volunteer leaders, we help organizations develop to their full potential, enhancing their capacity to help themselves and, as a result, help and enrich others and the world we share.

Beginning with this issue of Venue, and over the course of the next year, we are proud to highlight two dozen philanthropic leaders and nonprofit organizations committed to enriching life in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky community. At the same time, I think we are all philanthropists. It’s the way we encounter the world. Philanthropy is an attitude of kindness, a heart of generosity; it’s offering to help someone put their bag on the shuttle at the airport.

Every generation brings its own unique mark to philanthropy. While the way people give of their time, talents and treasure may be changing, I believe the benevolent heartbeat of philanthropy will remain the same.

Thanks for reading.

Elizabeth Kohler Knuppel

President & CEO

Skystone Partners

John Benevides | East U.S. President | Private Wealth Management, U.S. Bank

The distinction between being charitable and being philanthropic is key for John Benevides.

"To me, being charitable tends to mean check writing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; it’s very much needed. Philanthropic is being both active and elevating your involvement, becoming more engaged, so it’s something beyond you," says Benevides, East U.S. President, Private Wealth Management, for U.S. Bank. "It goes beyond funding. It also includes giving personal time and talent. You become an advocate, and you inspire others to act. Cincinnati is one of the most engaged communities I’ve ever been a part of."

U.S. Bank is located at 425 Walnut Street, Suite 250, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Raphaela Platow | Director and Chief Curator | Contemporary Arts Center

Raphaela Platow, director and chief curator of Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC), has an enormous appreciation for the integral role philanthropy plays in keeping the arts vibrant in one’s community.

"I grew up in Munich, and most organizations in Europe are all supported through the government," she says. "There is a little bit of fundraising, a few corporate sponsors, but very few individuals who give. What I have come to value, what is so tremendous about philanthropy in Greater Cincinnati, is that so many people are individually passionate about helping shape their community with their own resources, whether it’s time or money. It’s like part of people’s DNA here."

The Contemporary Arts Center is located at 44 E 6th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, visit

Lisa Diedrichs | Attorney | Graydon Law Firm

Cincinnati’s 32-acre John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park is named after her late grandparents. So, naturally, preserving and promoting parks is Lisa Diedrichs’ pet philanthropic passion. She is also dedicated to supporting economic development, women’s issues, and battling dyslexia and childhood poverty. An attorney with Graydon law firm, she feels fortunate to have the firm’s support in all her philanthropic endeavors.

"Our culture places great emphasis on philanthropic efforts, and that’s a big part of why I love Graydon so much," Diedrichs says.

Philanthropy is about more than just giving money, she adds. "Your time, expertise and devotion to charitable organizations are assets money can’t buy."

Graydon Law Firm is located at 312 Walnut Street, #1800, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Nancy Grayson | President | Horizon Community Funds

Philanthropy is evolving, says Nancy Grayson, president of Horizon Community Funds, a year-old community foundation comprised of prominent Northern Kentucky business and civic leaders that focuses on funding key charitable needs and programs.

"Our aim is to encourage more people to give on an individual or family basis at the local level. It is equally important to have corporate and organizational giving, but we’re finding people are more interested in how they can connect with their communities on their own. We’re seeing a trend where young professionals want to be personally involved in the things they care about, which makes a bigger impact not only in the region, but in individual neighborhoods."

For more information on Horizon Community Funds, visit

Victoria Morgan | Artistic Director | Cincinnati Ballet

"We believe dance can change lives," says Victoria Morgan, Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic director.

High-level Academy training, extensive outreach programming in the schools, extraordinary performances featuring live music and unique collaborations with international and local talent are but a few ways Cincinnati Ballet leaves a positive footprint in our region. And that takes continuous community generosity.

"We’re a very typical performing arts organization," Morgan notes. "About 50 percent of our financial support comes from ticket sales, and the rest comes from contributions. So, the caliber and quality of what we bring to the community, and how Cincinnati Ballet influences our youth and adults, the disadvantaged and special needs students, is deeply connected to philanthropy. We count on our foundations, our board members and our community leaders who believe ballet should not be only for the wealthy to enjoy. Our sponsors help us to bring young students forward, and give them opportunities to discover confidence, connect with their bodies and develop a positive perspective – one of hope and possibility. We couldn’t be successful in our mission without philanthropic support."

According to Morgan, the primary reason for the arts is to open people’s eyes so they understand their world in slightly and also seismically different ways.

Our genre of expression lends itself well to other artistic orientations. Cincinnati Ballet, for example, is partnering with ArtWorks to create a new, abstract expressionist backdrop for this spring’s performance of Murder Ballades, a contemporary ballet influenced by 1940’s American folk ballads.

"Sure, it would be simpler to just say, ‘OK, we’re a ballet company and we’re just going to do our ballet thing.’ But collaboration enriches the communication of movement, whether it is through the costuming, new composers, video or a special backdrop, and while these additives can be expensive, that blending of genres resonates and enriches the experience. To have that dynamic backdrop, curated by Art Works, created by local abstract artist, David Beutsche, and painted by him and apprentices from Art Works, as the frame for this masterful piece of choreography, will shift how our audiences perceive the work. And then there is the compelling contemporary music of Bryce Dessner’s … well, it takes a village and our community’s generosity, to make the magic happen." 

Cincinnati Ballet is located at 1555 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45214. For more information, visit

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