I couldn’t stop myself from fast-forwarding 20, 30, 40 years ahead as a new donor sat with me in our office this week. The genteel man with a copy of his will in hand was very specific with me about how he wanted his money directed to five separate scholarship funds, each with special criteria, after he and his wife pass on. He is quite well-known in town, a retired physician who has helped usher thousands into this world as an obstetrician.
“This is where I worked and prospered, and I want what I have left to help people here,” he said. I recognized immediately that he was proposing a plan of giving back to the future. I cannot express the intense sense of responsibility we all feel at the foundation with such a gift. It is as if he handed me one of his precious newly-delivered infants to be held for the very first time.
You might be familiar with the “Pay It Forward” concept; to pay it ahead. In fact not long ago, my latte was paid for by the person in front of me in the coffee line. But on this day, while my modern-day “Doc” outlined his desires to give to deserving students, I was mesmerized with the hopes and dreams that his and his wife’s gesture would come to bear. This was “giving forward” by giving back at its very finest.
His and his wife’s estate will be carved into sizable pieces that will endow enough money to send several deserving students from our community to college. Scholarships will be renewable year after year so that the students have a fighting chance to attain a college or post-secondary degree, and in the case of one of their funds, a medical degree.
Deserving. I asked what that meant to him. “Well, you’ll know,” he said. “It’ll be someone who deserves the chance for this funding to help pay for college, which is so expensive now.”
The statistics illustrate his point. Increasing the amount of student financial aid (including private scholarships) that a low- or middle-income student receives can have a big impact on higher education access, retention and most significantly: completion. There is a distinct correlation between income levels and college completion according to the 2009 follow up to the 2003-04 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study presented by National Scholarship Providers Association white paper Sept. 16, 2013.
With an eye on the future backed up by the proven data, the foundation is inspiring donors to award scholarships differently. It’s one thing to set up a fund for an annual grant for a scholarship and it’s another thing to provide resources for a college or post-secondary education. Both are generous and important, and both are very much needed.
My new doctor friend embraced the notion of helping to provide the launch pad for these students but and also providing the fuel necessary to get them to their destination. He joins a multitude of donors who currently have made nearly $500,000 available at the foundation each year to deserving students.
As I walked him out to his car in the parking lot, I was almost looking for a silver DeLorean DMC-12 complete with a time machine as featured in the “Back to the Future” film trilogy. My new doctor friend wasn’t the wild-haired Einstein-inspired genius also affectionately named “Doc” in the movie, but he carried with him an essential link to the past and some keys to the future. And as quickly as he arrived in my office, he was gone as if it were just another day in the life.
To read the longitudinal study by NSPA, or to find out how to give a scholarship or to receive one, visit floridacommunity.com, email me at [email protected] or call us at 274-5900. We love to find ways to help.
— 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 $84 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, the foundation granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. The foundation granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.