News Releases

Southwest Florida Community Foundation grantees’ reports 2016 results

The 18 local nonprofits granted $551,500 in 2016 from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s available Field of Interest funds as well as individual and corporate donations, have reported their annual outcomes.

The established and new programs funded by last year’s grants were designed to increase the quality of life in sustainable and equitable ways for Southwest Floridians.

The nonprofits included Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, Champions for Learning, Charlotte County Homeless Coalition Inc., the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. (CROW), Family Initiative Incorporated, Glades County Board of County Commissioners, Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc., Gulf Coast Symphony, Gulfshore Opera, Hendry County Library System, I Will Mentorship Foundation, Lee County Alliance for the Arts, Naples Botanical Garden, New Mission Systems International, RCMA, The Heights Center, The Immokalee Foundation and Gulf Coast Humane Society.

Of the funded reporting nonprofits, nearly 90 percent of the tribe programs demonstrated progress toward the changes nonprofits desired in the region because of their program.

The increase in the amount of collaboration between Foundation-funded nonprofits is 650 percent resulting in 13 collaborative projects between the nonprofit grantees. Examples of these collaborations include Gulf Coast Symphony and the Heights Center’s MusicWorks! program for the after-school children along with Family Initiative and the Alliance for the Arts’ Art for Autism program.

In Lee County, Gulf Coast Symphony’s free Music Works! program at the Heights Center provides an innovative education and social initiative that creates opportunities for personal development in children (grades K-2) through the study of music.

Foundation-funded nonprofits saw an increase from 22.5 to 28.9 percent in knowledge and ability in evaluation skills such as data collection, analysis and reporting.

“Awarding the funding was just the beginning of our partnership with the regional mix of nonprofits,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “Staying connected with them all year through their ‘tribes’ provided a learning community where they shared information and built their capacity to strengthen them and their leadership.”

Learn more about the results of the work of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Tribes through the video featuring the Tribes at work at http://floridacommunity.com/tribes/

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that have created more than 400 philanthropic funds over the last 40 years. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

The Best of Times

The Best of Times

A friend invited me to lunch last week.  Not long ago she had a highly successful career, owned her own business, and was a leader in her field.  Those were great times.  Now she is retired and I noticed a certain freshness about her, and her new calm was palpable.  She shared her new daily challenges, like what book to read or the struggle of getting out of the house on time even though she doesn’t have anything pressing to do or deadlines to meet, and assured me that these are the best of times.

As she sat across the table from me, I remembered her telling me nearly 20 years ago when her children were younger that she would often work from home or knock off at 3 pm.  She worked hard to achieve an enviable work life balance. My children were a bit younger than hers, and when I had my own business, I never forgot her tricks (though I somehow missed part of her lesson because I ended up working into the wee hours after my boys went to bed).

Now we are comparing notes on our grown children and even learning about her grandchildren.  I still rely on her wisdom and guidance professionally and personally. I am still her student, I suppose.  And, when I get to retire, I hope she will show me the ropes.

But not yet, I have a lot to do in the next 10 to 15 years.  I feel an even stronger sense of urgency the more I learn about the pending transfer of wealth from one generation to the next and its anticipated effect on philanthropy and what it could mean for our community.

Philanthropy is experiencing many changes for numerous reasons.

My change-maker colleagues and I at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation view philanthropy as one part funding and one part action mixed together to create measurable impact or create desired change.  We know that money alone cannot and has not solved anything, but we also know that funding is an essential resource in our philanthropic work to inspire and fund projects driven by nonprofit organizations in Southwest Florida now and in perpetuity.

In 2012, Florida Philanthropic Network commissioned a “Transfer of Wealth” study to understand what might happen to wealth as Baby Boomers begin to retire and pass their assets on to the next generation.  In Florida, it is expected that more than $322.35 billion will change hands from one generation to the next by 2020. In Lee County, more than $15.32 billion will change hands by 2020 and grow to $163.42 billion by 2060.

Imagine if our current generation of donors considered giving even 5% of their assets to charity, it would result in millions upon millions captured, protected, invested (endowed), and then a portion granted each year to causes the donors care about.  Talk about the ability to improve the quality of life in a community BY the community!

The Community Foundation recently granted $550,000 to regional nonprofits from funds left by donors. We continue to work with the awarded nonprofit grantees after the money is given to help them stay the course of the grant and help them with their organization’s challenges.  We all could do so much more with our nonprofit partners if we had even 5% more resources without the burden of fundraising at every turn. At the foundation, we work with donors every day to plan their philanthropy whether it is for current community needs or left in their estate for future needs that match their passions. And if you ask me, these are the best of times preparing for even better times ahead.

If you ever want to talk about what we do, just give me a call or email me at [email protected].  We will have the best time — together.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

 

 

 

Less than two weeks to apply for Community Foundation scholarships

Less than two weeks to apply for Community Foundation scholarships

FAFSA form required for need-based scholarships

The deadline for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s scholarship application process is fast approaching with less than two weeks left to apply.

Closing on March 3, the scholarship application process is available through the Foundation’s online portal at www.floridacommunity.com/scholarships. Students may apply for multiple scholarships and upload transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) report, as well as access an online tutorial about how to create and submit the online application.

Approximately $500,000 in scholarship money for the 2017-2018 school year is available through more than 50 scholarships for local high school students, undergraduate and graduate students from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

Need-based scholarships require the FAFSA form, which is available at www.fafsa.gov. Educators, mentors, parents and students can find resources to complete the FAFSA form through the local FAFSA first website recently launched by the FutureMakers Coalition at http://fafsafirst.org/. The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. It partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Community Foundation has invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. It is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Based in Fort Myers, the Community Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

Funds established in memory of Jordan Ashley Gutheim

Funds established in memory of Jordan Ashley Gutheim

The Gutheim family has established the Jordan Ashley Gutheim Foundation Fund and the Jordan Ashley Gutheim Scholarship Fund, funds of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

The donor advised fund and scholarship fund were established in memory of Jordan Gutheim, a 20-year-old graduate of Evangelical Christian School and a junior at Florida State University, who was killed in a car accident on May 12, 2016.

According to her family, Jordan was passionate about animal safety, seniors and helping those in need in impoverished countries like Dominican Republic. They plan for the fund to support efforts including no-kill animal shelters, seniors facing dementia, humanitarian mission trips, driver safety and family services. The family also established a 4-year renewable scholarship fund for local students, preferably a graduate of Evangelical Christian School, to attend FSU.  (apply at www.floridacommunity.com/scholarships)

Born in Fort Myers, Jordan was known for her fun and loving spirit, her happiness, sensitivity and interest in going out of her way to help others.

“Jordan took pride in her family and friendships, and valued loyalty and kindness,” said her father Greg. “She loved to travel, exercise, experience new things and make others laugh. We miss her every day, but through this fund, our wonderfully kind and caring daughter will live on and continue to help others.”

The fund is available for anyone who would like to contribute by visiting http://bit.ly/JordanAshleyGutheim or sending a check to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

“We are the Community Foundation, and community is what we are all about,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We want to be here for the members of our community so that we can provide support for philanthropy and building legacy. The Gutheims are an important part of our Foundation family now, and we look forward to walking alongside them in making meaningful and effective grants in Jordan’s memory.”

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created nearly 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation has invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

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Contact: Melinda Isley, APR, m.creativepr, 239-274-7736, cell: 239-565-1630, [email protected]

How are you going to change the world?

How are you going to change the world?

How are you going to change the world?

It was an innocent enough question that I asked each of the young professionals who visited our office last week.  These six young women and two young men were home for the holidays.  They have still not met each other but have so very much in common.  They each answered my query without a pause as if it was something they thought about often and do as they go about their daily work.

A former Marine and senior level patent examiner at the US Patent Office, an assistant state attorney, a new mother and former Miss Florida and 4th runner-up Miss America who went on to get a masters degree in theology, a CFO for an energy company, a first generation college graduate now finishing a master’s degree program in communication at the University of Vermont on a full scholarship, a head of a Montessori school, an assistant professor in the department of Thoracic Surgery at a major medical institution, a Lee County Public Schools Take Stock in Children alumna who is currently a student studying sports psychology at Cornell — they are all going to change the world but not how you might think!

They are also Southwest Florida Community Foundation scholarship recipients over the last decade. Some live here and some do not.  They all say they are going to change the world starting with wait for it, wait for it…..

COMMUNITY.

Yes, community! The responses varied only slightly and differed only from how they defined community.  Some said they were going to change the world starting with their cities or towns where they lived, others spoke of their colleagues and peers in their chosen careers as their community, or the patients they serve, and another said she was going to change the world starting with her own family.

How are you going to change the world? It’s something we all ponder every day at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  I guess that’s why I asked them.

I used to think that changing the world was such a big thing, as large and as difficult and as magnanimous as our globe.  Where do you start? I thought this so much so that when I used to ask the question I would add a caveat, an extra line like this: “Do you want to change the world? — at least our corner of it?”

I quickly realized with this bunch, they understood the question very clearly without my expanded version.

“With a smile,” said Lindsay Scott. She said if she can brighten just one person’s day, she’s changing the world.

“I would encourage people to seek opportunity,” Lee Visone said. “If one person accomplishes that, then it will have an exponential effect on the world.”

“Oh, I have a plan!” said Dr. Erin Gillaspie. “I am focused on research for lung cancer patients and I want to find treatments to make their quality of life better so we can best treat these people.”

“First I will change my community,” said Nahisha Alabre.  “It’s how I can give back to my community because this community gave me my start. Then if I can change my community, I think it will change the city, then the state, then the country, and then the world, but I have to start small right here where I came from.”

“I have a strong sense of community, I want to help out young people who are following the same path I followed,” said Michael Dignam.  “I want to get involved in an organization like this because it has greatly influenced me.”

“My hope is to first and foremost change the world through my family by supporting and loving my husband and raising our daughter,” said Sierra Jones.  “I want my daughter to learn what it means to be kind and have compassion, I think we need to start at home with our family unit – it’s in our daily interactions with others that will change the world.”

“As a first-generation black woman getting an education, I am changing the world by changing the narrative, and I am giving people a voice who may not necessarily have a platform,” said Jessica Williams. “I am going to continue to do that to change the world.”

So now it’s your turn, how are YOU going to change the world?  We’d love to know.  Please post it on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SWFLCF), tweet about it (@SWFLCFnd), email us ([email protected]) or call us (239-274-5900).  If you want to start with your community,  so do we!

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, the foundation has invested $5 million this year in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

 

Women’s Legacy Fund holds Spring luncheon

Women’s Legacy Fund holds Spring luncheon

The Women’s Legacy Fund hosted its Spring luncheon on Thursday, May 12 at Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club exclusively for its WLF contributors and Prima Donors.

The “working” luncheon featured table discussions exploring cause areas identified and researched in our region to determine the fund’s next cause area for grants benefitting women and girls in Southwest Florida. Discussions focused on intergenerational activities, career exploration and youth activities for young women, women and girls.

“Our contributors are interested in taking a deeper dive into the WLF grant focus areas before making their votes on what to fund, so we formatted the luncheon to be a more intimate gathering in order for everyone to explore and discuss cause areas as a group of collective philanthropists,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “This type of thinking and talking together further proves that we can do so much more together than we could ever do alone.”

The feedback and votes will be used to determine the next area of funding for the WLF’s 2016 grant recipient.

A fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Women’s Legacy Fund is a group of women who foster the immersion of women in philanthropy and develop the region’s next philanthropic leaders.

Here are some photos from the event:

Prince and His Estate Plan, Formerly Known as a Will

Prince and His Estate Plan, Formerly Known as a Will

It was in the middle of a meeting when my colleague whispered to me that “Prince died.” What?

I gasped! Prince was an icon who rose to stardom while I was in college.
It seemed like yesterday that we witnessed this creative genius with no last name playing his heart out in a torrential tropical rain storm during the 2007 pop-charged Super Bowl XLI halftime show in Miami. In his inimitable style, he danced and jammed with not one, but four electric guitars. Cords and amplifiers were all over the Prince-symbol-shaped purple stage. He boogied around the electric lightning rods as if grooving in between the raindrops giving a performance that only the symbol and the man “formerly known as Prince” could do.

The commentators of the show winced words of caution fearing the worst knowing that he and his fly girl dancers could’ve easily been electrocuted that evening. Instead, he died a few weeks ago at age 57. The cause is not the matter, but what will become of his fortune and his music library is the biggest question.

Prince did not have a will. At stake is not only his fortune, his guitar collection, and his music, but his legacy.

Working at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, I have met people of all ages and all circumstances from rock stars, retired CEOs, school teachers and housekeepers but the common thread is these people who come forward and begin their estate planning to include gifts to charity seek a certain peace of mind, and dare I suggest significance? We all want to know our lives mattered and if we cannot give as much today of our worldly goods, we can take the time now to plan for it.

In fact, most major gifts to charity are given through the estate via a will or a trust. And it is so easy to do! Depending on your plans, it could mean a simple will or a trust document created with an attorney, and a letter of request and direction that either the attorney or foundation can execute giving the foundation the detail held on file outlining exactly how the donor wishes their funds be used. Most of the time, these funds are endowed to create a revenue stream for charity forever.

The Community Foundation, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has hundreds of donors who have named the foundation as the stewards of their charitable giving in their legacy plans which is the current source of the over $70 million in endowment and the $551,000 granted out this year, for example, to local nonprofits serving our community’s greatest needs.

In 2011, Prince donated $250,000 to Eau Claire Promise Zone in Columbia, South Carolina, a citywide grassroots coalition of community partners committed to “whatever it takes” to ensure all of the city’s children are prepared to graduate from college and be successful in their career and in life. And in 2012 he partnered with Rebuild the Dream for a concert in Chicago to support the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of everyday people—from seniors to students, moms, dads, brothers and sisters—who come together to build strong vibrant communities and to fix our economy from the ground up.

Imagine what more he could’ve done with a plan. Now his assets are tied up in probate, much will go to the government in the form of taxes, and the rest to who the courts deem “rightful” heirs based simply on if they are considered a relative.

Charitable planning as part of the estate plan assures that the things you care about now will be here for a long time, after you are gone.

Local Trust and Estate Attorney Eric Gurgold, a friend of the foundation, said it best:
The moral of the story is that everybody should have an estate plan in place. A plan that carries out the desired distribution of their estate, names the proper people to be in charge of estate assets, creates trusts for beneficiaries who are young, disabled or otherwise impaired and saves taxes.

When it comes to putting in place an estate plan, don’t be a prince, be a king. And if we can help, please contact me at [email protected]

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

Because you only turn 40 once!

Because you only turn 40 once!

Congratulations to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation board of trustees and senior advisors celebrating 40 years of philanthropy.  The anniversary events were kicked off tonight with the awarding of the John Sheppard Award to Jay Brett and Dawn Marie Driscoll in front of a packed Community Hub filled with trustees and senior advisor trustees, spouses and friends.  The “dynamic duo,” coined by Board Chairman Guy Whitesman, did not disappoint with heartfelt words of acceptance of a journey well taken as leaders, ….and followers.  We say a hearty THANK YOU.  Happy 40th Anniversary.  Here we go!

 

Jay Brett and Dawn-Marie Driscoll Recieve the John Sheppard AwardSarah Owen and Larry Hobbs MDMyra Walters and Aurora Badia MDJohn Sheppard, Bob daFrota, Bill FreyJoe Mazurkiewicz and Jay BrettGary Aubuchon and David LucasHugh Kinsey, Aurora Badia MD, Sydney RobertsTrustees before toastIMG_8938IMG_8937IMG_8936Cindy Banyai, Howard Leland, Ron PennCharles Idelson and Juan BendeckTom Smoot, Archie Hayward and Chauncey GossScott White, Robbie Roepstorff, Larry HobbsArchie Hayward, Carolyn ConantAmy Gravina and David Lucas

LeSage to speak at national conference

LeSage to speak at national conference

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2016) – Tessa LeSage, director of strategy for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, will be a guest presenter at Lumina Foundation’s national conference in February.

LeSage will present “I’m a FutureMaker: Building a Coalition One Story at a Time” on Feb. 8 to 10 at the Marriott Grand Hotel in St. Louis, Mo. The session will focus on how FutureMakers captures stories that compel stakeholders to want to be a part of a coalition.

“Messaging and communications is both the key to and the greatest challenge of building a regional coalition from the ground-up,” said LeSage. “I’m excited to be sharing with our national peers how the FutureMakers Coalition is reaping the benefits of a strong focus on an effective communications strategy.”

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 40 percent by the year 2025.

The FutureMakers Coalition was born out of a two-year regional initiative focused on increasing the number of high-school seniors in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Responding to the Florida College Access Network’s 2012 report that more than $100 million in Pell Grants went unclaimed by Florida students, the initial effort involved a team of more than a dozen stakeholders who invested in high-school seniors through one-on-one and group mentoring, FAFSA workshops and support, and career coaching.

Within a year and with the recommendation of FCAN and Helios, the work of the inaugural FutureMakers program was recognized by Lumina Foundation, an independent private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. The FutureMakers Coalition benefits from Lumina’s collaborative approach that connects Southwest Florida to renowned national thought-leadership organizations and provides technical and planning assistance, data tools and flexible funding as attainment plans are customized.

LeSage earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston College, Master of Public Administration degree from Florida Gulf Coast University and is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP).  During 2011, she was recognized as one of Southwest Florida’s accomplished young leaders, receiving Gulfshore Business’ “40 Under Forty” award and received the Urban Land Institute’s Trailblazer Award. She was also a finalist for the Women in Business Fort Myers Chamber Of Commerce APEX Award.

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

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About FutureMakers Coalition

The FutureMakers Coalition is working to increase post-secondary certification completion in Southwest Florida, and promote the knowledge and skills needed for success in the workplace and in life. Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the Coalition’s goal is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications from 27 percent to 40 percent by 2025 throughout Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

As one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment, the FutureMakers Coalition is a regional partnership involving education, government, business, nonprofit and citizen stakeholders, and advocates committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition’s collective effort encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. They are looking for partners from all sectors to invest resources, including time, expertise, funding and more. For more information, visit www.FutureMakersCoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected].

Is High Tech the New High Touch?

Is High Tech the New High Touch?

There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow! as the theme song of the GE exhibit Carousel of Progress at Disney Magic Kingdom reminds us. It is a living monument to the past and a nod to the future. Maybe you remember the exhibit anchored in Tomorrowland? While the stage moves, the model family gets older, their fashion and hairstyles change and the family unit itself changes (but that is for another article). With each scene the latest inventions are displayed and the number of wires from the ceilings and walls are reduced to the glow of new wireless technology filling the “contemporary” living room.

In our fast paced world, it often seems hard to keep up with the latest trends. The holiday ads are finding clever ways to introduce new gadgets, like universal charging stations for all the family’s electronic devices, “smart watches,” and much more.

Technology has made communication available around the world in real-time, 24-7, even grandchildren now visit with their doting grandparents via Face Time or Skype. It has propelled charitable giving from bank drafts, wire transfers of securities, and online donations, to new platforms like text-to-give and crowdfunding, not to mention virtual currencies like Bitcoin. Social media has opened the door to Ice Bucket Challenges and compelling real time video of social injustice happening in our neighborhood and worldwide.

At the same time that technology is leading the charge of change, our country is simultaneously experiencing the loss of its “Greatest Generation,” and with that, the largest-ever transfer of wealth from one generation to the next will take place.

In philanthropy, the younger generations, much like their famous peers Mark Zuckerberg (the creator of Facebook) and his wife Priscilla Chan, are strategic in their giving by taking an entrepreneurial approach to support social issues and establishing measurable outcomes to realize return on investment. The young philanthropists want to know exactly where their money is going and the difference it is making – now. They aren’t seeking to establish big foundations or infrastructure to do their work, instead the Zuckerbergs partner with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to stealthily affect their causes. This is the future of philanthropy.

I saw these two worlds collide recently when meeting with a 94-year-old donor who carried his smart phone with him to our office at the community foundation. Though our smart device-carrying seniors are savvy, they still expect a human touch. I guess we could say they’re “wired” that way, pun sort of intended. People in their 60s, 70s and 80s respond differently than their younger counterparts to appeals to buy a product or service, or give to a cause, and not to mention that they expect to be able to communicate with the provider in the process.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we cater to the way donors want to give, and to engage people the way they want to be engaged. We are reminded that technology is designed to help us be more efficient, but to never forget the importance of the human touch, the simple wave, smile or question about the grandkids. If ever we could reimagine a better way to accomplish “a great big beautiful tomorrow,” it is going to take a well-placed combination of high tech and high touch.