Katherine Kreuchauf Retires as Foundation President & CEO
For 35 years, her father volunteered with others who sprinted toward danger, risking their own lives to save people and property for no compensation other than simple moral certitude that it was the right thing to do. Meanwhile, her mother spent countless hours guiding rambunctious children in the ways of friendship and leadership. Having grown up in a household where continuous public service, primarily in the form of volunteer firefighting and Girl Scouts of America troop leading, was considered a humanitarian imperative, it was perhaps inevitable that Katherine Kreuchauf would become a distinguished nonprofit manager in her own right.
“Some of my first memories of my parents were always that they were really involved in the community,” said Kreuchauf, who retired in October 2020 after 12 years as The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation’s president and CEO. There were also church functions, other activities that benefited youth, and myriad assistance efforts that her parents prioritized in their busy lives.
“From a very young age, I did things with them to support community efforts,” Kreuchauf said during a recent conversation in which she reflected on experiences that both impacted her and helped influence this community’s charitable and cultural direction.
The numbers behind her work, along with the accolades, speak to Kreuchauf’s lifelong philanthropic philosophy. During her tenure, she:
- Doubled TCF’s assets from $65 million to $130 million;
- Increased the number of funds from 200 to more than 400;
- Led a $17 million capital campaign to purchase the former Central Middle School, a WPA-era building, for conversion into the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts;
- Mentored top University of Findlay College of Business students as a Dana Scholar Executive in Residence during the spring 2018 semester;
- In partnership with other organizations, helped create the collective impact-focused Center for Civic Engagement; and
- Proudly championed the efforts of the Foudnation as they helped local nonprofits secure $2 million from federal, state, and local governments for COVID-19 relief. The funding has helped individuals and families with critical needs such as eviction prevention, rent relief, childcare assistance and supplemental provisions at regional food banks.
Other accomplishments—too many to comprehensively list—include work such as professional and leadership development programming establishment; launching a Program Related Investment endeavor to leverage foundation assets in support of local nonprofit capital needs and projects; and improving the foundation’s grant awards process to focus more on long-term sustainability, which has resulted in more than 90 percent of funded programs still existing five years post-funding.
“In addition to leading and serving as a champion for so many worthwhile projects and initiatives, Kathy raised significant dollars for the Foundation to put to use for generations,” said Dr. Brian Treece, who succeeded Kreuchauf as TCF President and CEO.
“I think Kathy’s caring and compassion is one of the qualities that has made her such a successful nonprofit leader,” said Ginger Jones, TCF Board of Trustees chairperson. “She is truly connected to the needs in our community and determined to serve as many people as possible. I think this is also demonstrated in her personal life, as she has committed time to young people through co-leading a 4-H group for the past several years.”
Kreauchauf’s outstanding leadership earned her a parting gift: The Association of Fundraising Professionals Northwest Ohio chapter’s 2020 Fundraising Professional of the Year designation.
What have been Kreuchauf’s essentials for maintaining momentum within the charitable sector’s traditional and emerging challenges? She cites varied professional experiences, patience, and empathy as her key success components.
While altruism has always been a personal mainstay, it was her first job at a health-related nonprofit that opened Kreuchauf’s eyes to organized giving’s necessary business operations, the behind-the-scenes strategizing and relationship building that makes one-timed and planned giving possible.
As the Epilepsy Foundation Central Ohio Chapter’s executive director, Kreauchauf was responsible for figuring out how to supplement the organization’s dwindling government funding sources with private dollars to sustain services.
Back then, in the 1980s and 1990s, “there was no Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy (that teaches fundraising tools, strategies and ethics),” Kreuchauf said. There was no internet with which one could easily Google ideas, lessons and time-tested practices. Instead, there were the typical tools that had been used for years: professional training via methods such as conferences and networking, mentoring, and conducting research that mostly involved sorting through articles and books.
Thus, the groundwork was established for Kreuchauf’s insightful problem analyses and for her signature personable approach with TCF donors, colleagues, and recipients.
Becoming United Way of Delaware County’s president represented both a nostalgic homecoming and a learning opportunity. During her 11-year tenure there, the organization increased its annual community campaign at two times the annual growth rate of similar-sized communities. It also transformed its allocation process to a results-based evaluation model that led to more effective programming and use of donor dollars and launched a school-based family resource center to support children from low-to-moderate income families.
Along the way, she also became a Certified Fundraising Executive, which provided her with the professional credentials to design and champion forward-thinking initiatives.
The expansiveness of her United Way work inspired her. “I realized I wanted to work with a community foundation because it has so much impact across the board and reaches such a broad spectrum of the community,” Kreuchauf said.
A Dream Realized
While pursuing her foundation leadership goal, Kreuchauf was examining communities similar to Delaware, Ohio, where she grew up: a place that, by the time she left it, had a population that was small enough to be progressive and cohesive, but large enough to be inventive when it came to service-focused aspirations. Findlay and Hancock County had similar community characteristics to Delaware’s, she said.
“When I came to Findlay, what I felt was the sense of community identity that was vanishing in Delaware because there was so much growth there; it was like a waterfall was washing it away,” Kreuchauf said. “I liked the atmosphere and the size of the community here. It’s not impossible to organize a community response to things like a flood or to COVID-19 or to a community opportunity. You can get your arms around those issues” and do something about them.
What also sold her on this area was its vivid commitment to the underserved via The Family Center, a TCF-funded venture on North Blanchard Street. Founded in 2006, the center houses more than a dozen nonprofit agencies under one roof. This arrangement allows for greater collaboration and for intertwined needs, ranging from health matters to legal aid, to holistically be addressed. Organizations such as Blanchard Valley Health System’s Caughman Health Center, Hope House, WIC, and Hancock Metropolitan Housing Authority are located there. Kreuchauf described the facility as “the heart of what this community is all about.”
Under Kreuchauf’s direction, TCF has been adept at mitigating other forms of adversity, too, in heartfelt ways.
Kreuchauf became the foundation’s president one year after the 2007 flood, the region’s second worst on record. Along with directing funding efforts that assisted with cleanup and other immediate needs, she was able to represent affected individuals as a board member of a newly formed flood mitigation coalition that aimed to shorten the government’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s timeline for approving federally-funded flood control projects.
“At the time, the community was in such pain that the thought of waiting the typical 10 years or working for 10 years to get a project approved was unacceptable,” she recalled.
Systemic solutions, like those attempted by the flood mitigation coalition and the community at large, are of particular interest to Kreuchauf. Her long-term collective impact efforts have already yielded results in the form of, for instance, literacy intervention by the time third graders solidify their feelings about school, and the creation of the Center for Civic Engagement, which focuses on developing integrated solutions to problems such as food insecurity and mental health deterioration.
“To me, collective impact is a way of viewing the world that looks for how things are interconnected and where you can get the most impact from what you put in,” she said. “It’s peeling the layers of the onion back and always asking ‘why.’ It’s trying to get back to the root cause that led to that person being in that situation today.”
Collective impact is, therefore, an exercise in seeing the larger picture, which is why The Marathon Center for the Performing Arts has and will continue to be part of Kreuchauf’s legacy. Along with other leaders, she was instrumental in providing strategic planning and promotion that transformed the former middle school on West Main Cross Street into a premier performing arts hub. Its opening night gala in December 2015 provided her with the indelible memory of so many others celebrating a reimagined space for artistic creativity to flourish.
“The arts are taking a hit right now,” Kreuchauf said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic toll. “The arts are always the first cut and the last to come back. And yet it’s the arts that make our lives worth living. It’s the arts that represent the new ways of thinking and new perspectives on situations. From the very beginning humans have been making art.”
“We have this capacity to create, to improve, to beautify, to imagine and to express that. The arts are just as vital to our wellbeing as humans as food and shelter,” said Kreuchauf.
In addition to the performing and fine arts, the community’s ecological and aesthetic features were supported while Kreuchauf was president. She said some of her most gratifying achievements included helping to renovate the deteriorating Dorney Plaza in the heart of downtown and funding urban reforestation projects after the tree-decimating 2012 derecho barreled through the area. She pointed out that Triangle Park near Park Street, places along South Main Street, and handful of neighborhoods received several full-size, hardy trees. A southside location near the hospital where trees were planted “turned into a little community pocket part that’s a neat place to go and hang out,” she said.
Growth and collaboration are also the mainstays of the Community Heart & Soul local grant-funded program, a nationwide development and planning effort TCF joined that invites residents to devise tailored improvements to fit their needs. Sponsored by the Orton Family Foundation, places here that have benefited thus far include Mount Blanchard and McComb.
Kreuchauf said Community Heart & Soul is one effort that she’s proud to have helped oversee, in part because it addresses what she considers to be a valid criticism: that TCF’s grant process had favored Findlay at the expense of Hancock County.
“Community Heart & Soul gave us a way to go out and work with some of the smaller communities and do some projects with them that are going to be long-lasting and meaningful,” Kreuchauf said.
Working with the people who have sustained and benefited from TCF’s generosity the past several years provided the most emotionally gratifying and bittersweet moments for Kreuchauf, she said.
When asked what has made her cry, she mentioned conversations with family members’ who are carrying out a deceased loved one’s wish to give to TCF. Expressions of “empathy and compassion” have mingled with the witnessing of love and loss, she explained, to create powerful moments. Likewise, losing extraordinary friends and community leaders such as Hancock County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Allan Davis and Hancock County Commissioner William Recker has been challenging. “There have been some folks whom I just really respected and admired who are no longer with us,” she said.
At other times, her work has seemed most fulfilling when she and her staff have worked successfully to help realize people-focused projects such as Bluffton Pathway trail and the Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation’s track relocation to the north side of Findlay.
Most, if not all projects require lots of time to be completed, which, over the years, has required her to embrace persistence, patience and bravery, she said. As an example, Kreuchauf mentioned the visionary work of a certain Findlay architect.
“I remember Jerry Murray talking about how he’d been drawing pictures of a performing arts center for almost 20 years. He had drawers full of drawings. It just took a while for the pieces to all come together and then the time was right,” Kreuchauf said.
But the performing arts project couldn’t be undertaken by one individual.
“I remember there were six or eight of us at Jerry’s old office next to the former Elks building on South Main Street, talking about what are we going to do about Central,” Kreuchauf continued. “I don’t remember how it came up, but it was a situation of, ‘OK, if we don’t get this sorted out now, that building is going to be demolished. It was now or never. There was that moment of, ‘game on.’”
Additionally, Kreuchauf has given back in other valuable ways, particularly as a mentor.
Jones recalled Kreuchauf’s involvement in a Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. women’s networking group, where she “spoke eloquently about her career, how she found her path in leading nonprofit organizations and her advice to other women. She was kind, thoughtful and very helpful…” said Jones.
Several others within Findlay and Hancock County consider Kreuchauf’s guidance to have been invaluable.
“Many ideas that will positively impact generations in our community happened because of Kathy’s involvement and leadership (or approval),” said Treece. “We are grateful for her leadership. She definitely has done much to make a positive difference in Hancock County.”
Kreuchauf’s last year at The Community Foundation was, of course, colored by the pandemic and its socioeconomic toll that caused the region’s unemployment rate to spike. Again, the organization pivoted to address the community’s most dire needs. In particular, it partnered with other nonprofits and local governments on eviction prevention measures by issuing and securing grant funding ($155,000 from various foundation funds that supplemented outside grant dollars) for emergency rent payments.
From a planned giving perspective, Kreuchauf was able to use her experiences from the 2008 recession during this time as well to talk with donors about long-term giving rather than immediate giving. She said she expects the pandemic to influence fundraising for the foreseeable future due to continued unemployment and stock market gyrations.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some nonprofit organizations come together in some sort of alliance or strategic partnerships in order to be able to better manage their resources I the face of what might be some pretty tight fundraising,” said Kreuchauf.
Kreuchauf is now using her years of fundraising, foundation and community improvement expertise to launch her firm, OnPoint Philanthropic Consulting. Its purpose is to help foundations and nonprofits of all sizes to make strategic decisions for greater impact.
“This is a great time to be able to step forward and say, ‘I’ve been through this and I have some things for you to think about to maybe speed up the recovery and also the renewal,’” Kreuchauf said. “Part of what I’ve been able to say to folks through this sad situation is, ‘Truly, I’ve been through this before in 2008, and yeah, it looks really awful right now. But we will get through it. So, let’s start thinking about what we want that future to look like so as things start to turn around, we’re ready.”
Meanwhile, she said she and her husband intend to remain in Findlay.
“I can’t image moving. I’d never be able to recreate what we have here,” she said.
Kreuchauf will be able to witness even more TCF contributions through a fund created to celebrate her work here. The Kathy Kreuchauf Future Generations Fund will offer permanent support for the community for whatever needs its people have.
“Having that source of resources, unrestricted, to meet the current and future needs of the community is just absolutely spot-on with what I believe and with what I’ve tried to accomplish in my time here. Who knows what’ll come down the pike,” Kreuchauf said.