CINCINNATI (Jan. 17, 2022) — Used to be, Mary Stagaman could be seen motoring around town in a Honda Fit bearing the license plate INCLUSN. She no longer has the car. She still has the license plate, now in her office.
And the Tocqueville Society member still remains laser-focused on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and access – “things I think are terribly important in this community and need a lot of intentionality from many of us, to improve where we are.”
Note the word improve. Mary is never satisfied with the status quo. “When I look back at my life,” she says, “building a better Cincinnati has always been at the center.”
That was true during her 10 years at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. It was true during her 25 years at the University of Cincinnati. It was true when she helped develop the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the Corporation for Findlay Market, Black Achievers and Green Umbrella. It was true when she volunteered for ArtsWave for more than 25 years, and now as she serves as its executive-in-residence. And it’s been true since 2020 when she launched Mary Stagaman LLC, her professional coaching and consulting business.
Clients come to her for her expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I believe in this community. I believe in this region,” Mary says. “We are getting better, but we haven’t always done as much as we could or should about embracing equitable approaches for everyone in our community, or about providing opportunities for people who have not been well served by the systems that are in place.”
That’s why she’s excited about the opportunities United Way is creating through initiatives such as its Black Empowerment Works grant program.
“What United Way has done to lift up Black-led organizations that serve our African American communities is really important work. It needed to happen for a long time. It especially needs to happen now. And we’ve seen those organizations thrive in ways that perhaps some people might have been skeptical about. What’s inherent in that is that United Way was willing to take risks. To really be change agents, we had to get more comfortable with risk. And to be more humble.”
That means doing things differently. One example: United Way asked residents affected by the community’s most pressing problems to talk about their needs and offer possible solutions. Those insights helped the organization formulate strategies and align its investments. “That’s a very different way of thinking,” she notes. “But it’s an equitable way of thinking.
“We have to try new things,” she says. “I love the fact that it’s happening not just on the fundraising side of the organization, but in the programming aspects as well. And we’re making sure that what we’re doing has the right impact on the community.”
On a personal level, Mary’s impact on United Way has been felt since the late 1980s when, as board president of Women Helping Women, she worked to secure United Way investments in the organization. Today it’s one of United Way’s systems change partners.
During her years at UC, Mary led many United Way campaigns. While at the Chamber, she worked closely with United Way leadership to bring community focus to regional needs. And in the early to mid-2010s, she served two terms on the United Way board.
“United Way, for me, has been the vehicle through which I can take some of my time, and increasingly more of my treasure, to ensure that people . . . are working effectively in the community to build a better Cincinnati.”
That is, a highly inclusive Cincinnati where everybody can reach their full potential.
“The kind of work I do doesn’t have an endpoint. So, I’ve taken up flower arranging as a creative outlet that I can practice weekly. In about an hour, I can have something that is beautiful and – equally important – finished. And then I get to share the product with others.”
Tocqueville members enjoy meeting other philanthropic leaders at signature events such as cocktail receptions, luncheons and educational forums.
Each exclusive event is designed to give members an engaging, up-close look at how your investment is changing lives.