Q&A with Community Shares Leader Michelle Dillingham
Since the latter end of 2015, Michelle Dillingham has been at the helm of Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati and has been instrumental in keeping with the organization's core values while pushing its agenda forward. This year, the organization sets its sites on increasing the number of organizations it provides assistance to in Northern Kentucky.
Its big annual fundraiser is Thursday, February 16, at 6 p.m. at Hotel Covington. The evening includes comedy with Sweett Biscut, live auction with Brooklyn Steele-Tate, DJ Thaddeus, and more. Tickets are $85 before the event or $115 at the door, and include two complimentary drinks. Visit cintishares.org to purchase tickets.
RCN contributor K.A. Simpson, who is a board member at Community Shares, spoke with Dillingham about the organization.
RCN: Tell us a little about Community Shares.
Dillingham: Community Shares was founded in 1986 as a response to the local United Way implementing a new grant strategy that left many local non-profits unable to participate in their workplace giving programs. A small group of people decided they would start their own workplace giving federation for causes working on social justice, economic equity, and a healthy environment. Today we continue to offer assistance to local non-profits who do not qualify to participate in traditional workplace giving federations so they are able to raise awareness and funding for their causes.
RCN: What types of organizations can become a member of Community Shares?
Dillingham: The organizations who qualify to be a part of the Community Shares must have a mission that includes addressing social justice, economic equity, and/or a healthy environment. Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati raises funds for non-profits that are located in the Greater Cincinnati region, and that includes Northern Kentucky.
RCN: How many organizations do you currently help?
Dillingham: In 2016 we raised funding for 23 non-profits; the number of individuals and families served annually by our fundraising is in the thousands and includes services to families who live in Northern Kentucky. Our impact is significant, as we are able to provide outreach and education about our member non-profits at several of the largest employers in our region including Northern Kentucky University.
RCN: What sets Community Shares apart from other giving organizations?
Dillingham: Community Shares is unique because we offer total choice in workplace giving. When someone gives through Community Shares, they get to designate specifically who receives their support, ensuring their donation goes to the causes they are most passionate about. This unrestricted funding to local causes is critical, as many struggle to access traditional funding sources to support their work.
RCN: What are some member organizations that are either located in Northern Kentucky or support efforts in Northern Kentucky?
Dillingham: Northern Kentucky is an important part of the region that we serve; many of the non-profits in our partnership serve this area. For example, UpSpring is an organization that helps children experiencing homelessness with educational opportunities. This year they launched a new after-school program, “Summer 360°” that serves children in the Kenton County School District. Another example is the Cincinnati Observatory, a historic nineteenth-century observatory that promotes the study of astronomy and science. They offer programing on their campus for school children K-12 who may not otherwise have the opportunity to access STEM education. Many of the participants in their programs include children from Northern Kentucky. In 2016 they received a grant to expand their programming to better serve students in Northern Kentucky.
In 2017, Community Shares plans on being more intentional about connecting with non-profits that are located in Northern Kentucky. They know there is incredible advocacy, prevention, and environmental work happening in Northern Kentucky, and want to support it. They encourage people who think they may be a good fit for their partnership to call CEO Michelle Dillingham at 513.724.GIVE (4482).