Erin Clemons: Foundation and Family
West Chester and Liberty Townships are north of Cincinnati, but that doesn’t mean things are slow around here. We met Erin Clemons, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty in her office, where things were still bustling at 5:30 in the evening.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Erin Clemons. I am the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of West Chester Liberty. I am also a mother to both a two-year-old daughter and a puppy, and sometimes my husband. I also co-founded a women’s elite cycling team called Women’s Racing Project. Those are my focuses, but work and family definitely get the bulk of my time. The amateur bike racing is the last priority at this point, now that I’m a mom. Those are my three loves: work, family, and cycling.
What drew you to work in a nonprofit?
Actually, I got involved by Pattie Alderson pulling me into the foundation, and that really got the ball rolling for me on nonprofits. I instantly was inspired. The thing that I love about foundations in general and community foundations is that we get to hear from everybody and we get grant applications from everybody, so you get to see the different impacts within the community, as well as from some of our donor advised funds.
It’s been really neat to learn what inspires people to give, and it can be different for people. It could be pets, kids, sports; it could be anything to make a difference, maybe a chance you didn’t have and you want to make sure our future generations have. I don’t know that I’ll ever leave nonprofit because I like it so much. It’s such a good thing.
Tell us about the Community Foundation.
The Community Foundation of West Chester Liberty is one of over 700 community foundations in the United States and it was founded almost 20 years ago. It is for this geographic region. It’s basically a savings account for West Chester and Liberty Townships to make sure that we are here taking care of the needs forever. Whereas most nonprofits may function as a checking account to help the needs now – we help the needs now, too – however, we really like to invest the dollars through what we call “endowments,” and that way we know that not just tomorrow, but 100 years from now, we’re still taking care of the needs within West Chester and Liberty Townships. It’s the community trust fund.
It’s a women-based organization right now. Talk a little bit more about that.
Yes, we have all women working here right now! We have four full-time and one part-time employee and they’re all women. I think it’s great; we can all relate in different instances. All of us are mothers, actually.
I think it’s great that we have an understanding there of working hard, but we have the understanding that family comes first. As long as you’re getting the job done, and you have a sick child and need to work from home, we all understand that. I think that’s important in today’s workplace.
We’re blessed, really, to have one another to lean on as mothers. That is definitely a neat thing. We’re all different ages and it’s been really fun to work with so many women.
As a mom, how do you balance work and life? Is there a line that you have to draw?
I think you try to juggle everything as best you can. I would say the thing that I learned that was hard as a millennial mom was I always thought that women were 100 percent equal in every way, and I found out that is not true being a working mother. Women really do take on a lot as working moms. You are expected to do certain things. My husband is fabulous and really great, but those working moms work very hard to keep the juggling act up and make sure no balls get dropped, and it really is a balancing act. It’s good to have other moms at the workplace we can lean on when we need advice. It’s fun. I always thought you could do everything 100 percent perfectly. But then the thing that fell for me was my women’s cycling and I couldn’t be this elite racer, so now I’m more of a team manager, but I’m there for my daughter and my family and I also work really hard. Something had to go. It’s just not possible; there aren’t enough hours in the day. You want to be there for your children.
Tell us about an influential woman in your life.
I have so many influential women in my life. Probably the most influential woman in my life was my mother. She impresses me in a lot of ways. She had three little kids and she double mastered at UC with three little kids, made the meals and made sure they were ready for when my dad got home, then she would leave and further her career and her studies. I always look at her as that benchmark of someone who works really hard. She was always that mom who did everything for us and then stayed up to work until 2 and got up at 6. I don’t know too many women like her. She’s just a very hard worker and always puts 100 percent into her work, so she definitely inspires me.
Are you from this general area?
I grew up in Lakota Hills for a while and then we moved to Indian Springs, which is like the east side of West Chester and I actually still live on the east side of West Chester. I lived in D.C. for a while when I worked for Speaker Boehner and then I moved back home.
How long did you work for Boehner?
I worked for John for seven years. He is a wonderful human being. He’s definitely someone that also inspires me. He also had a lot of strong female women in his office. I never felt any boundaries there about being a woman. I always felt like you could do any position and there was never anything about gender impacting it.
I love his quote – my favorite quote and I live by it; it has really helped me as a leader, and it is, “If you do the right things for the right reasons, good things will usually happen.” I live by that. You just try to do your best and do the right thing, and you hope that good things will happen from doing the right thing.
It’s said that you’re one of the most influential leaders in the nonprofit sector within Butler County. How does that make you feel?
I always say that we have such a good team here; that’s the only way I would be a good influencer, through our great team.
Every single employee gives their most day in and day out. We truly function as a team. I may just be the team captain, but they all do such a good job that I think it’s our team as a whole that influences the community.
I’m very grateful that we have such a great atmosphere and camaraderie.