Laura Menge is a development specialist for the Greater Cincinnati Foundation with specific responsibilities for the Northern Kentucky Fund, which was established in 1998 as a special project of then-Forward Quest. Since its inception the NKY Fund—and GCF—has returned about $11 million to the NKY community. The Northern Kentucky Fund and its sister NKY endowments, created in partnership with donors, have assets of more than $7 million. 

Menge joined GCF three years ago, via Boston and Washington, D.C., and has enthusiastically embraced urban living in downtown Covington—and the responsibility for developing the NKY Fund.

Q Can you talk a little bit about how you got here and what you do for GCF and the NKY Fund?

A I’ve enjoyed 14 years in philanthropy, and these last three with The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) have been the highlight. I’m a New England native who went west for college, then Washington, DC where I worked for a family foundation, then took a development job at Boston Children’s Hospital. . .[but] Northern Kentucky is now the place I call home. . . I enjoy living in Covington, am delighted by the people I meet and my experiences here (especially with Leadership Northern Kentucky and Legacy), and see remarkable opportunities and generosity at every turn.

Helping donors effectively invest their charitable resources in the areas for which they are most passionate is the engine of the Foundation’s work. It’s a privilege and joy to serve at the intersection of philanthropic intention and community results. I love the deep-seated home pride in this region, and how deeply individuals, families, companies and organizations care about their communities. 

Q How does the fund work? 

A The Northern Kentucky Fund is a permanent, charitable resource that invests in the health and vitality of communities in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties. 

The endowment brings together diverse donors who have the common goal of enhancing the quality of life in Northern Kentucky. Their current and planned gifts of all sizes and types (cash, stock, real estate, life insurance, etc.) generate earnings that are given back to the community in the form of grants. These grants are directed to the nonprofit organizations serving the three counties’ greatest needs. 

Q What is the history of the fund and how it has grown?

A GCF teamed with local leaders and ForwardQuest (the predecessor of Vision 2015 and Skyward) to establish The Northern Kentucky Fund in 1998. As part of their vision and strategic plans for the region, those leaders saw the benefit of an endowed fund that would provide ever-lasting support for the sole benefit of Northern Kentucky. They hoped it might philanthropically unite local residents and businesses around their community and create a compelling legacy of charitable investment.

It has done just that. The fund has grown through contributions and market returns, and families and businesses have aligned with it by establishing their own charitable endowments to benefit Northern Kentucky nonprofits. Altogether, these permanent assets—an annual distribution from which GCF makes grants in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties—now exceed $7 million. 

Adding the donor-created scholarship funds for Northern Kentucky students and funds that donors have set up to support specific organizations in the Commonwealth brings that asset total to $10 million. 

Q What are some organizations that benefit from the fund?

A Since 1998, GCF has granted nearly $11 million in Northern Kentucky, supporting a wide range of organizations and initiatives and responding to ever-evolving needs and concerns.

Grants from The Northern Kentucky Fund have supported Skyward (formerly Vision 2015), the Life Learning Center, Faith Community Pharmacy, and many others. With leverage from the fund and other pooled resources, GCF invested nearly $550,000 in Northern Kentucky-based organizations in 2014. 

Q How important is it to have this resource?

A The creation and growth of a specific endowment that Northern Kentucky leaders rallied for, and that residents have generously supported, shows great vision, solidarity, and belief in that piece of our region. The endowment reflects a commitment made to Northern Kentucky, ensuring a permanent stream of funding to nonprofits doing strong work there and to the communities about which many donors care most—now and into the future.