News-Press Causes Column

CAUSE & EFFECT: Are We There Yet?

CAUSE & EFFECT: Are We There Yet?

Today, for the first time, my youngest child will pull his car out of the garage and drive himself to school – without me in the car.

 

You would think I would be used to this nerve wracking rite of passage by the third offspring.  I did all the right things to try and prepare him but I am not ready.

 

He indulged me over the last few weeks with reminiscing about our decade and a half in the car together.   As a child he was a car seat escape artist, back of the seat kicker and had some special maneuver that would cause my seat belt to tighten fiercely at my neck.  There was also a constant refrain of “are we there yet?” from my back seat passenger.

 

No matter what I had done to prep him for where we were going, what to expect and how long it would take to get there, about 5 minutes into the trip he would launch into the cry of anticipation of arrival. As you can imagine he didn’t ask just once.

 

No matter our age, I think when we are certain of our destination we are anxious to get there.

 

As adults we spend time navigating our endpoints. With the help of GPS technology and navigation systems we can pinpoint our exact moment of arrival.   But some journeys in life and work are easier to reach than others, which can make estimating “getting there” a bit tougher.

 

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation our journey and mission is cultivating sustainable regional change for the common good.  We want to help donors and community advocates identify what creates a positive quality of life in Southwest Florida and then design a map that we can follow to get there together.

 

When it comes to serving our community I don’t think we can ever stop asking if we are there yet.  We should never stop considering if we have done all we can for transportation, water quality, education, health, poverty elimination and economic development.

 

A few weeks ago someone ask me “are we there yet?’ in creating a sustainable region.  My answer would have never satisfied my young son in the back seat, but quality of life is never a destination that is permanently reached.   We will always be driving toward it, and protecting and stewarding what it takes to create a vibrant region.  We can never stop getting there.

 

But it is important that we create the roadmap, benchmarks and measurements to ensure we are making progress.  At the foundation we like to say, “If we can’t measure it, we can’t move it.”

 

We apply this to everything we do because we want to continue to do and support the things that create progress and let things go that don’t move us in the right direction.  It’s like GPS for change.

 

Every year we support amazing non-profit organizations who are actively trying to “get our region there” through their work in economic, social and environmental causes.

 

Last year 18 local nonprofits (see the full list on our website) were awarded over a half a million dollars to fund new and existing programs to increase the quality of life in our communities.  But they didn’t just take a check and stop there.  The leaders met with us as a Tribe for a year to work together to track both their individual and collective progress.  Always asking “are we there yet?”

 

Some of their results include:

  • Of the funded reporting nonprofits, nearly 90 percent of the tribe programs demonstrated progress toward the changes desired in the region because of their program (the programs are getting us there and their data confirms it)
  • 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. (they are finding ways to work together)
  • 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. (they can measure their progress and report that back to you)

Check out a great video at the link below to learn more about the results of the work of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Tribes  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. 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.

CAUSE & EFFECT: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

CAUSE & EFFECT: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

If people watching were an official sport, I am fairly certain I could be a contender for the Olympic team or championship game.

Wherever I go I look for opportunities to observe people and their behaviors.  I often say I am listening, but many times I am watching to see what I can learn about others.

Most recently my people watching training took me out of state to a land full of mountains and snow.

One of my favorite people watching moments in these wintery conditions is taking in a couple hours of snow-tubing.  This entails tubers of all ages pushing an inflated rubber tube up a snowy hill to the top and then riding it full speed to the bottom.

Pushing the tube up the mountain is nothing short of a monumental task. Your feet slip, it’s cold, and a tube big enough to ride is just awkward to maneuver.

Kids are the best to watch because the tube is about twice their size, but they are relentless in getting that chariot up the slope because they know the joy of the exhilarating ride to the bottom.

In an afternoon of tubing, the riders will repeat this ritual over and over. But I have noticed some people are more willing to push the tube up the hill than others.

It seems to be some sort of return on investment proposition based on the satisfaction of the ride down.  In my casual observations tenacity is increased when others are there to help or share in the journey.  Groups tubing together will help fellow travelers when the tube gets too cumbersome, and in some cases they will work together to get one tube up the hill and then ride down together.

In every case, the journey is never easy.

A few weeks ago when I was feeling a bit discouraged about a tough journey of my own and was worried about keeping our Southwest Florida Community Foundation team engaged and energized a colleague shared a story she sometimes conveys to her team.

This woman is a trailblazer who I admire and she has successfully launched several community projects that many thought impossible, so I knew she had some sage advice.

Interestingly it also involved a snow laden scenario.  Not of pushing a tube up a hill, but instead a snowball.  She says she often thinks of her projects and community movements as snowballs that are being pushed up a mountain.  At the beginning many people will gather around to help push but when things get tough some fall away.  She keeps her team and volunteers motivated by painting the picture of what will happen once they reach the top of the mountain.

Whatever size snowball they have could roll to the summit; the minute they push it over the other side of the mountain it will gain momentum.  It will pick up speed, size and people who want to be involved.   But none of that happens without finding a way to get to the top with the people who are willing to go with you.

Over the last few months I have read, watched and been inspired by the profiles of the News Press People of the Year nominees and recipients.  These are fellow residents who have accomplished amazing things over the past year.  As my friend shared her story I realized that everyone featured had pushed their own proverbial snowballs up some pretty steep mountains.

Overcoming health issues, human trafficking, business challenges, being under the microscope of the public eye, or finding their way as a next generation leader.  Each story has both its snowball up the mountain and down the mountain moment (You can still find the stories by clicking here).

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we also have the great honor and privilege of supporting nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions in our region.  I see these teams working hard to tackle issues facing the environment, poverty, education, animals, the arts, health and safety, and community development.  They work hard but they need the support of our region.   Just like the tubers who ride in groups, the journey up hill is always better when taken together.

So what snowball or tube are you trying to push up the hill?  Or who could you help up the mountain?  Whichever it is, remember the ride down is worth it and as a semi-pro people (and their causes) watcher, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cause & Effect:  It’s All Gone.

Cause & Effect: It’s All Gone.

It’s all gone.  That was the message delivered by my friend who emailed to let me know that the home shared by multi- generations of her family had been lost to a devastating fire.

This news was heartbreaking, and what made it worse is it followed on the heels of other tough health and personal challenges she had faced with courage.   It all just seemed too much.  I was thinking, “enough already!”

My friend lives in another part of the country so we stay in touch via email and text, but I struggle to find the right words for her.  I knew that as result of the fire the family had lost some valuable legacy establishing artifacts created by her father who had passed away a number of years ago.

The family had been busy working to curate and memorialize his work so that it could be shared with the world in perpetuity — a painstaking task.   I had learned from another colleague who is overseeing her late husband’s collection of artwork that this kind of responsibility carries the weight of the world.

Honoring and protecting legacy while grieving is difficult.

I knew I wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect with my friend in person, so I planned a video Skype call just to check in and make sure that I could see her face to gauge how she was holding up.  She is really skilled at sounding strong over the phone.

This news happened to correspond with a trip I was making to Philadelphia, and I couldn’t help but think that if after spending some time in the City of Brotherly Love I would somehow be inspired to share words of love and comfort with my hurting friend.  I had even thought of texting a photo of the famous LOVE sign in JFK park to let her know her family was on my mind.  Again, just the right words escaped me.

My original plan for this month’s Cause & Effect column was to share insights on the concept of brotherly love, which I had researched as part of my trip, and how it pertained to philanthropists and local nonprofits who shower love on our region every day.

But my plans changed when I Skyped with my friend. Surprisingly enough, I discovered it was she comforting me with the lessons learned from the fire and how it related to legacy and love.

With tragedy comes reflection and she was quick to share that the loss of the home and material possessions particularly those with financial and legacy implications had helped her focus on the true meaning of what matters after we are gone.

She made special note of the gratitude she felt that her loved ones escaped the fire and talked about the tedious and messy work of trying to sort through the remains at the site of the blaze, standing ankle deep in wet ash.

At one point the firefighters helping with the recovery of items from the home, opened a drawer of a nearly burned out dresser to find a single photo encased unharmed in an acrylic frame.

The photo was of she and her husband and their two kids and she said in that moment she knew that was the legacy of her father and that home.   Not just the continuation of the family but what they give of themselves and their work in this world which includes their faith, and service to the local and global community.

Because she lived in our part of the world for several years she made a point to mention the work that happens through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and more specifically the nonprofits and donors we have the honor and privilege of working alongside every day.

She said the fire taught her that legacy developed by helping our fellow man, our environment and our communities lasts forever, because love endures all even when belongings and heirlooms do not.

So in a hotel room in the City of Brotherly Love, on a Skype call with my friend in the Midwest, who had returned from sorting out a family tragedy in the Northeast I learned a lesson about creating and sustaining love and legacy in our backyard.

A special thank you to all the nonprofits and the incredible people who support them, work in and with them for creating a legacy in Southwest Florida that can never be destroyed.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cause & Effect: Is it Time to Burn the Ships?

Cause & Effect: Is it Time to Burn the Ships?

Welcome to 2017.  I am hopeful that you sent 2016 out with a bang and are feeling hopeful for the year ahead.  This time of year provides us the opportunity to reflect on the past while casting an expectant eye to the future, but this year in particular greets us with many unknowns at the global, national and local levels. I am not feeling apprehension as we move ahead rather I am encouraged about the role philanthropy can play in creating opportunities for change.

Although we savor the things that went well in 2016, the change in calendar allows us to consider the things we may want to leave behind.  This shows up in goals, resolutions, and midnight promises on New Year’s Eve.

Some things are easier than others to leave in the past as we forge new ground and we apply different strategies and techniques to create the change we want to see in our lives and in our communities.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we are fiercely committed to cultivating positive sustainable regional change for the common good.  With that mission, we are always examining what needs to be reimagined, refined, redesigned and sometimes abandoned to create a stronger more vibrant community.  Reimagining refining, and redesigning  come much easier than abandoning.  It can be hard to let go of the way things have always been done.

In some of the more difficult moments I am reminded of the story of Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez who in 1519 made a radical leadership choice to leave the past behind.  His goals were not exactly philanthropic, he was trying to conquer the Aztecs and seize their treasure.  He took 500 soldiers, 100 sailors and 11 ships and landed them on the shores of the Yucatan.

The crew was all in until they realized they were taking on a huge and powerful empire that had been around over 600 years.  Suddenly commitment waned and some of the followers made a plan to take a ship and escape to Cuba.  When Cortez got wind of their plot he took action to make sure that the rest of his men remained committed to the plan.  He ordered that all the ships be destroyed.  Some accounts say that he commanded the ships burned but in reality he sunk them in the waters off the coast. Burning sounds much more evocative but the results were the same.

The only way they would get home was to be successful in their quest and take the return voayage in the Aztec ships.

When Cortez’s leadership style is applied to today the translation is this:   Going back is easy when you let yourself hold on to the option.

Are there any places in your 2017 resolutions that may need some ship sinking before moving ahead?  You don’t have to be conquering an empire to act and to leave certain things behind for good.

With new administrations, new tax laws on the horizon and new issues facing us every day, what ships need to be burned to allow us to see things in different light?    Where can philanthropy and community support make new unwavering commitments?  Which issues might need us to sink some proverbial ships?  Affordable housing, mental health, violence, poverty all seem like good places to start.

Although Cortez and his men were ultimately successful, modern history hindsight begs the question if sinking the ships was the only option.   This is true of the community issues and opportunities as well.  Abandoning everything old for a single focus may not always be the best plan.  Maybe other routes could work equally well.

That is the beauty of philanthropy.  Many voices and viewpoints working to unite around causes that matter even if our perspectives are not the same.  We can work to align around the solutions we hope to create together.  We don’t have to rely on how things have been done in the past but rather learn from those lessons.

That is the journey we must all take together in 2017.   Forget the resolutions, let’s redesign or consider burning the ships – but whatever we do let’s commit to moving ahead 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. 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.

 

 

 

CAUSE & EFFECT:  Purpose Driven Politics

CAUSE & EFFECT:  Purpose Driven Politics

“Britt Is It” for President is my all-time favorite political slogan.  You won’t be seeing Britt on next week’s ballot but this candidate did make a successful presidential run back in 1996.

After a hard fought 2- week campaign complete with posters, buttons, speeches, and custom cupcakes Britt took the helm as President of Port Orange Elementary School’s study body.  She had been encouraged to run by female mentors in her life and teachers at the school.

I had not thought of my eldest child’s foray into the political scene in years. It was her first and only campaign.   Not even the politics of the day had brought it to mind, until I connected with a friend last week who had made an ultimately unsuccessful run for the US Senate in a highly contested race in another state in 1992.

My friend and I were not talking about national politics, a topic I avoid in my role at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and this year, just avoid in general.  Instead we were talking about the impact of early experiences and the role of mentors in the lives of women and girls.

She had just been asked to present on a national stage, as she often is to discuss her work in politics and women’s equity issues, but this time she would not be alone.   She would be accompanied by her granddaughter. Like my Britt, her granddaughter had campaigned for the presidency of her middle school student council a number of years ago and together they are going to be sharing insights from the US Senate run and the student council campaign.

Of course the opportunity to work alongside her granddaughter to prepare their presentation was a treasured endeavor.  Anytime we can cross generational lines and share common experiences we are more closely knit to each other.  I am certain that this young woman has always been surrounded by encouraging mentors including her grandmother.

My friend shared that as they worked on their speech she was particularly struck by the influence the middle school election had on her granddaughter in terms of her confidence and her place in the world.

Her biggest take away from this early experience was the importance the trust of her peers meant to her when she realized she had won.  In my own daughter’s case, her victory came shortly after we had moved to a new city and the race helped connect her to a new school, new friends and new community.

Exposure to these opportunities stuck with them.  There are many things my adult daughter has forgotten about middle and high school but the campaign is not one of them.  It exposed her the possibilities that were available and in front of her.

Last month, the Women’s Legacy Fund (WLF), a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, held its annual fall luncheon in which the contributors award their annual grant funding to a local nonprofit that advances issues related to women and girls.

This year’s WLF focus area for the grant selection was early exposure to career exploration for young women and girls.  A key word there is early, meaning the contributors to the fund wanted to make sure that the funded program interacted with girls in middle school in an effort to connect with them during years that shape their future decision making.

The luncheon featured speakers Airline Captain Diane Meyers and IT Program Manager Denise Spence, women who have forged careers in nontraditional roles and special guests included young women from Dunbar High School’s tech and engineering programs.

This year’s grant was awarded to the Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) program at Florida Gulf Coast’s Whitaker Center for STEM education.    GEMS matches women in the STEM fields with FGCU students who then mentor girls in local middle schools.

The WLF contributors hope that early exposure to leadership and career opportunities is distributed in an equitable and intentional way, not just for the sake of shaping future career opportunities but also providing the confidence that sticks with them throughout their lives.

And to expand the reach of mentoring in the Southwest Florida, the Women’s Legacy Fund also welcomed a new fund, Impact Dunbar.  Founded by Karen Watson and Tasheekia Perry the fund will provide philanthropic support to programs designed to empower young women and girls in the Dunbar community.

My friend’s granddaughter is about to graduate high school and head out into the world, and the young women we mentor through the WLF funding also have an open canvas in front of them.  My hope is that they feel supported and that we are offering experiences that shape them and inspire them.

My daughter has not pursued a career in politics, but the middle school experience and other mentoring moments did impact her in many other positive ways in her nearly 30 years.

And for the record, I still think Britt is IT! Along with all the other young women who will affect our future.

 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

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, we’ve 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.

 

CAUSE & EFFECT: What a Difference a Season Can Make

CAUSE & EFFECT: What a Difference a Season Can Make

One of my favorite questions over a cup a coffee with a friend, colleague or new acquaintance is, “What’s on the horizon in your world that you are most excited about?”

There is something about the idea of anticipating what is to come either personally or professionally that is invigorating.  I ask this question all the time and I wish I had kept a journal of the answers I have been privy to over hot cups of java.

Depending on my relationship with my coffee date I have learned of pregnancies, engagements, expected grandchildren, career moves, book deals and innovative ideas to create change.

I think this notion of what’s ahead gets me excited about the fast-approaching Southwest Florida charity season.

Sure, our restaurants will be crowded, and life will move at a little different pace but with “season” comes opportunity and untapped potential for our community.   Seasonal residents return ready to volunteer, and ready to support annual fundraising events that provide funding for our region’s greatest opportunities and places where people of all ages have chances to connect and get involved.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, our annual Community Impact Grant cycle opens and non-profit organizations share their ideas for creating change.   Over the last 40 seasons the Foundation has partnered with such organizations to provide millions of dollars of funding and resources to impact our community’s cause areas supporting a sustainable Southwest Florida such as Animals, Health and Safety; Arts, Community and Culture; Education; Economy and Jobs; the Environment; Equity and Empowerment.

For long-time residents of Southwest Florida, it can be easy to take what happens here for granted or even grumble a little about the traffic.  We have grown accustomed to the infusion of the energy season brings with the focus on events and charitable endeavors.  Let’s face it, our region can be a generous force for good and people are excited about being part of these purpose-filled months on the calendar.

Last weekend I met someone new to Southwest Florida.  She had moved here over the summer and has yet to experience her first “season.”  I asked her my favorite question and she said she was looking ahead to two things; her upcoming wedding and getting involved in the community.  She had heard about all of the opportunities that come with peak season and the glorious Southwest Florida weather and could hardly wait.  She said she was ready to take on something big and was anxious to see what the near future had in store.

New Southwest Floridian’s often share with me their desire to become involved in our community.  It is important for those of us who have been here a while to reach out to them and find a place for this enthusiasm to take hold.

This season will not be like any other.  Although there are similarities to seasons past with familiar happenings and old friends gathering, there is also untapped potential coupled with unmet opportunities.  Whatever we accomplish this during a few short months has the ability to impact our region for generations.  Let’s approach each season with wide-eyed wonder, an ingenious spirit and unbridled enthusiasm.

From our vantage point here in October, it may be tough to imagine change that is ahead, but when we look back over season in the waning days of May there is no doubt we will see the difference we made together. Here we go.

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. 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. Founded in 1976, it connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $4.1 million to nonprofit organizations supporting a sustainable Southwest Florida in the following areas: Animals, Health and Safety; Arts, Community and Culture; Education; Economy and Jobs; the Environment; Equity and Empowerment; Resources for Change; Philanthropy and Community Trust. 

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

 

 

 

 

Cause & Effect:  What Happens in the Foundation Doesn’t Stay in the Foundation

Cause & Effect:  What Happens in the Foundation Doesn’t Stay in the Foundation

I just returned home from some summer travel.  My youngest child is 15 and I am all too aware that there are only a few summer breaks left that will provide me the opportunity to show him the world.  Soon enough he will be out exploring without me.

Travel is always a compelling way to gain a new perspective on everyday life.  This year I was struck by how many locations promised to keep stories of travelers adventures locked away in their city.  We are all familiar with the iconic, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  It seems that idea is so appealing that other destinations have adopted the mantra.  I can’t tell you how many small towns and establishments promised to keep whatever happened on my trip top secret.

As I pulled up to Yosemite National Park I half expected to see the sign altered to read, “What happens in Yosemite Stays in Yosemite”, but thank goodness the only signage was the standard, ‘Don’t feed the bears and Stay on the trails.”  I am guessing if we didn’t follow those rules then our secrets would remain in the wild.

All these promises of anonymity got me thinking about the thousands of travelers to our region.  Based on social media it seems that people can’t wait to share all their stories and adventures from paradise.

I am pleased to live in a place that we all want to talk about.

Then my thoughts turned to my work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  There is so much that goes on at the Foundation and none of it is designed to stay at the Foundation.

Decades ago philanthropy had the reputation of being reserved for the wealthiest residents, but fortunately the concept of a community foundation is grounded in the idea of a community trust that is accessible to everyone who desires to create positive change in their communities.

Gone are the days in which funds are exclusively opened through wealth advisors on behalf of their clients who want to remain anonymous.  Now philanthropy is fully embracing its origins of love of humanity and the opportunities to give through a community foundation are endless.  No minimums, no one size fits all giving and donors are open to sharing what they are doing to change the world.  Caring people, no matter their net worth have a vehicle to create change and they can do it on their own or collectively through a community foundation.

Just while I was away on a short adventure, the Southwest Community Foundation:

  • Opened an emergency disaster fund for a local employer headquartered here with employees experiencing a current disaster out of state
  • Continued to work with the United Way and the City of Fort Myers to distribute funds to the Club Blu victims
  • Met with our nonprofit grantee tribes to share ideas and learn more about evaluating the results of our work together
  • Designed the next round of Community Impact Grants which distributes funding to organizations based on donor intent and ideas
  • Hosted the FutureMakers Coalition regional action team meetings which brings stakeholders from across the region together to collectively work on transforming the SWFL workforce
  • Distributed funding from Donor Advised Funds which are just like charitable checkbooks that our donors use to make grants to ideas and organizations they care about
  • Met with two couples who are planning their estates and want to provide direction to the foundation on how to steward their funds to support their legacy
  • Opened a new fund to assist with affordable housing in the Dunbar community
  • Met with municipalities to design programs for underserved youth
  • Connected with scholarship students. Here is a note from one who sent this after arriving on her new campus:

These past couple of days, I have been giving God thanks for your life and for the existence of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation….The academics here are the best of the best and I cannot wait to start classes on Monday. I just want to say thank you so much……I owe a good portion of my success to you guys. Thank you for being the best. My heart will always be grateful to you. God bless you.  

Although all this work happened at the Foundation, none of it stayed at the Foundation.  It all went back out into our communities and I am so thankful none of it has to be a secret.

I think I see a new slogan emerging.

 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. 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. Founded in 1976, it 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.

 

 

 

Healing. Stronger.

Healing. Stronger.

Sometimes unexpected events cause our world to stop and speak of nothing else.

I will never forget when the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the West Indian Island country of Haiti in January of 2010.  More accurately I should say I will never forget not being aware of the disaster until 2 days after the event.

Travels had taken me to a remote location in the middle of the ocean with no outside communication services and I only learned of the earthquake upon my return flight home.  I was astonished and deeply saddened to hear the news.

There was something surreal about being oblivious to this kind of tragedy.  We are all so accustomed to receiving news and information in real time and reacting immediately.   Just two days’ post impact I felt as if I had missed the opportunity to help and was thankful when the flight attendant passed a basket for donations to support relief efforts.

Immediate response to disasters is critical.  Our love of humanity compels us to take quick action to help our fellow man and we rush to provide basic needs in the hours and days after an unexpected tragedy.  In this fast paced, well-connected world we are in touch with human suffering almost moments after it happens and this adds to the intensity and velocity of our response.

Many times philanthropic organizations and charities are on the forefront of assisting in the instantaneous needs of the suffering.  Those of us that work in the social sector have long been prepared to handle natural disasters but more recently we have begun to realize that we must be equally equipped for events that threaten our communities in many different forms.  I almost don’t want to give power to the words by penning them but violence, mass shootings and terror attacks are now part of crisis planning in our communities.

As shocked as I was by the earthquake in 2010 I think the idea of a natural disaster was comprehendible to me.  The uncontrollable, unpredictable forces of nature sometimes collide with our planet.    In my lifetime I have seen the impact of hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and tornados.  In these situations, I understood the role of philanthropy in both the immediate support and the long term recovery efforts.  I knew once the news trucks rolled out of town and the emergency responders closed down their base of operations that philanthropy would be there to support the longer term proposition of healing and rebuilding.

What I have been less prepared to understand is the devastation at the hands of my fellow man.  How do we ready ourselves for these forms of crisis and how can philanthropy be at the ready to help create stronger communities in the aftermath of a tragedy?

In 2010 two days without knowing seemed like a lifetime.  In 2016 I find myself holding my breath before I click on the 24-hour news channel in the morning, dreading what I may have missed overnight.  Imagine my shock when a week ago today my cell phone buzzed in the wee hours of the morning alerting me that a mass shooting had struck the city I call home.    At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we feel responsible to be prepared to support this region and our fellow citizens in both the national and global communities that face an unexpected crisis.  In recent months we have been on numerous national conference calls with communities facing unfathomable crises in an effort to be supportive and learn from others.

I have watched with great interest and admiration as my colleagues in Orlando have begun to prepare for the long term recovery of their community after the Pulse Nightclub tragedy.  They are dealing with a very unnatural disaster that requires the long view on healing and repair.

In the immediate aftermath of a crisis the community cries out for stability.  Healing comes through direct services like counseling for those impacted by tragedy, but it also comes from bringing people together to see the possibilities for the future and a vision for a stronger community.

In a recent blog post, the team at the Central Florida Foundation inspired me with words of hope for the Orlando community in the wake of their pain, It takes more than just money to build stronger communities. It takes community leaders and those who envision a stronger community to join in with helping hands. As we move out of the chaotic crisis stage of the Pulse tragedy, we will start to see people in need of safe places to come together, evolving partnerships to help the healing continue, and clear visioning around how all the communities involved, and the survivors, can thrive. “

They reminded me that even if the world has stopped speaking about a devastating event there is still much work ahead and 2 days or a longer stretch of years is not too late to help a community not only be better prepared but to heal or rather in their even more powerful words, “heal stronger.”  My greatest desire is that Fort Myers will heal stronger.

 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

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 it 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.

 

 

 

 

 CAUSE & EFFECT – The Purpose Driven Young Professional

 CAUSE & EFFECT – The Purpose Driven Young Professional

If you ever find yourself seeking hope for the future let me encourage you to find a way to spend some time with young professionals in Southwest Florida.

I realize that the term young professional or YP for short is a catch phrase for a very diverse group made up of individuals who manifest what it means to be a next generation professional in our region.  But the energy and hopefulness they possess as a collective is contagious and when I have the opportunity to spend time with them I walk away inspired and motivated.

I am honored whenever a YP group invites me to spend time with them at one of their events, but also somewhat terrified.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was the YP at my workplaces and now I am a baby boomer who if not careful could block the new ideas and insights that the younger leaders are bringing to the table.  I always check myself to make sure that I don’t fall into imparting outdated wisdom mode and rather spend most of my time in listening mode, because I have a great deal to learn from this generation.

I consider the Southwest Florida Community Foundation fortunate to employ a diverse team of change agents ranging in age from seventy somethings to twenty somethings.  Our YPs hold positions of leadership and are shaping our mission of regional change for the common good each and every day.

I am so proud to work alongside them and value their contributions to the team and the community, so it is no surprise that one of the questions I am asked the most is how I am going to retain them.  It goes something like this, “Wow they are really great, how much longer will you be able to keep them?”

This is not a question unique to me, but one that I hear over and over again in our region.

It begins with how businesses in Southwest Florida can retain the best and brightest YPs and then keep them engaged enough to hang on to them.  Recruiting and retaining workforce is one of the greatest economic development drivers of our time.

Some of you might be wondering why a leader of a charitable community foundation is thinking and talking about this topic.  Particularly in a column dedicated to community causes.

But after decades of discussing how charities should be run more like businesses the tide is shifting and business is starting to wrestle with the idea of how to more fully incorporate social benefits into their business.  The YPs are driving this discussion and we all need to listen.

Of course businesses of all sizes have long seen charitable endeavors an important part of building community.  I don’t think you will find more generous businesses anywhere than Southwest Florida.

During our community’s annual United Way campaign, wine fests and throughout our busy charitable social season businesses step up to sponsor galas, golf tournaments and a wide variety of events to support a range of causes and organizations.  This is important support.

Simultaneously, the YPs we are working so hard to recruit and retain are telling us they want more. Research shows that this generation wants to see a more direct connection to social benefit and purpose in their workplace.

They enjoy volunteering and giving back, they value and want to be involved in the charitable support their companies provide but they have greater desire to see purpose woven into their day to day work.

My boomer generation will tell you all day long that we have purpose in our workplace, but for us research indicates this is more related to the bottom line results of earnings and revenue.  We see purpose as what we do to promote the company that then allows us to be charitable.

So just imagine a boomer interviewing a YP in that all critical recruitment period.  When the YP asks about purpose in the company, we say it is a cornerstone of our work-  but we are not speaking the same language.  Once hired the YP starts looking for the social benefits within the work that we haven’t clearly defined and retention becomes a challenge.  They leave looking for more.

If you would like to dive into some data on how this breaks down in today’s workplace, PwC recently conducted a study, “Putting Purpose to Work: A study of purpose in the workplace” www.floridacommunity.com/putting-purpose-to-work.

The research points to the idea that “Purpose is not an initiative; it is a way of business. It must be core to the decisions, conversations, and behaviors across all levels to be authentic and deliver the wealth of advantages it promises. Now, more than ever, companies must cultivate the power of purpose if they are to succeed in a world where the opportunities—and responsibilities —of business have never been greater.”

If you are a Southwest Florida business concerned with the recruiting and retention of employees, I encourage you to reach out to our team at the Foundation.  We are working on initiatives and designing solutions for many of the drivers that are important to our future workforce.   We are talking with and listening to YPs and would be happy to work with you and your teams on these ideas.  Just reach out to me at [email protected].

 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

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 it 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.

 

Summer Playlists for Giving Back to the Community  

Summer Playlists for Giving Back to the Community  

 

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to wake up very early in the morning in New York City and make my way to one of the network morning shows summer concert series.  It is one of those moments when viewed on television makes you wonder what it would be like to be part of it in person.  Everyone always looks so energized and excited particularly for such a break of day happening.

Even though the band of the day was not on my iTunes playlist it was still fun to be part of the action down on the plaza and it just felt like summer.  The network handed out sunglasses and t-shirts and my teenage son was properly embarrassed by my dancing.   There is something about the sounds of summer as realized through music that is uplifting and memory evoking.

I can hear a song from my high school or college summer breaks and I am immediately transported back to days as a lifeguard or just hanging out with friends.

The network that hosted the summer concert series recently launched a poll that asked viewers to weigh in on their choice for the song that most represented Summer 2016.  The choices ran the gambit of current hits, throw backs from the 80’s and different genre of tunes.  The variety of choices to choose from reminded me that there is something for everyone to connect with both in music and opportunities to welcome in the summer season.

With this in mind I ask the team of change agents in our office to compile some summer lists of their own.  The first was their favorite tune to crank up when Southwest Florida temps rise and we all head for air condition and swimming pools.  If you would like to hear what we are listening to we created a link for you to access our playlist  bit.ly/SWFLplaylist

But in keeping with the work we do every day at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we also created a “Give Back playlist” which highlights opportunities to get involved and volunteer this summer.  Our team selected just a few of the organizations that offer solstice chances to give back.  This list is not exhaustive as there are scores of nonprofits offering summer camps for our kids, hunger fighting organizations that face the challenges of helping those experiencing food insecurity, and a variety of causes that lose their winter volunteers.  Our staff’s summer volunteer playlist:

  • Volunteer at Special Equestrians
  • Road Clean Up – pick up litter
  • Walk a Dog at the Humane Society
  • Help out at children’s tennis camps
  • Read to the blind at Lighthouse of SWFL
  • Deliver meals for shut in senior citizens at Meals on Wheels/CCMI
  • Swim to support a cause like Multiple Sclerosis

So crank up the tunes and head out to make a difference in our region this summer.  I would love to hear about your favorite summer song or volunteering experience at [email protected]

Who knows- We might add them to our playlists!

 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

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 it 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.