NEWS

What Are We Going to Do About This?

What Are We Going to Do About This?

“So Sarah, What are we going to do about this?”

For several years this was how Betty Bireley would begin every conversation with me.  Whether it was on the phone or in person she would greet me exactly the same way.  At the time of these interactions I was leading an organization that fought hunger and homelessness in Lee County and Betty would reach out to me on a regular basis to find out what was happening in our community around those issues.

Betty would literally lose sleep thinking about families who were experiencing homelessness.  She would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it and call me early the next morning.  She didn’t want to rest until she figured out a way to get the families out of the woods and into some sort of housing. With her background in real estate and generous philanthropy coupled with pure will she was certain she could design some sort of solution.

On many occasions she would join advocates for these families on trips to homeless camps in the woods to deliver blankets and food.  The trips to the camps served as reminders to her that these mothers, fathers and children were out there without a home.

Her calls to me were not just to ask how to help but also to offer up ideas such as:

– Working with Habitat for Humanity to build houses specifically for families experiencing homelessness.  Betty had been very involved in funding Habitat houses and she thought there might be a way to change the model to solve this issue
– Purchasing an abandoned camp that still housed some out buildings and small cabins that could be converted into housing
– Faxing (Betty never emailed, always faxed from a machine in her home) all of the foreclosure listings in Fort Myers each week during the height of the recession and asking me to see if there were any opportunities to purchase some of these homes
– Issuing a $100.000 challenge to local nonprofits and guaranteeing the dollars if someone would come up with an idea that made sense to her.  Trust me as the leader of a nonprofit I tried to come up with something, but none of the ideas I had were sustainable and I did not feel right about accepting the money for a short term solution.

Those are just a handful that I can remember off the top of my head.  The point is not the ideas themselves but the notion that she never stopped thinking, dreaming and imagining.  She believed with all her grit that a solution was out there and we had to find it.   If an idea didn’t work she would start researching the next one.

I remember when she heard I was changing lanes in my career and moving to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, she called right away.  For the first time ever she altered her opening line.  “So Sarah, we STILL have to figure out what to do about this.  Just because you are going to the Foundation does not mean this is going away.  Hopefully there will be more resources there and we can get something done.”

The last time I spoke to Betty she was still asking me about the families in the woods.  She reminded me they were still out there and wondered if I had figured anything out yet.  I told her no but promised as always that I would keep working at it.

Our community lost Betty recently but I will never lose sight of her vision or her voice in my head.

Betty is gone but the issue is still very much with us.  So, what are we going to do about it?

If you are interested in continuing the conversation Betty started, email me at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com

 

 

Sarah Owen is president & CEO of 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 $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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

 

 

Responding to the Nepal Earthquake

Responding to the Nepal Earthquake

On Saturday, April 25th, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. With more than 4,400 people confirmed dead and 8,000 injured at this time, the relief work in affected regions involves complex and overwhelming challenges.

Below is compiled information from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. As they do whenever a major disaster strikes, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy puts all its energy and resources at the service of donors who want to know how their giving can make a long-term impact.

Among the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s current activities:

 

  • A robust information page about what has been learned about the earthquake and how international nongovernment agencies and donors are responding.
  • Because we have learned from past disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Typhoon Haiyan and the South Asian Tsunami, that it will take many years for Nepal to fully recover, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy has activated a Nepal Earthquake Recovery Fund. Money raised will support medium- and long-term rebuilding and recovery.
  • Along with the Council on Foundations, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy is holding a webinar at 2:00 pm, Friday May 1 to discuss the needs and donor opportunities in Nepal.
  • Visit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’ Facebook page and Twitter feed for current with links to news reports and other updates.

 

And the Crowd Went Wild

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners meeting was filled to the rafters last week and it caused me to wonder what had prompted the large turnout.

I was there to support an agenda item relating to a partnership between the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the County but I knew that the crowd had not assembled on account of that matter.

My first thought was I had overlooked a heated or controversial issue on the agenda.  Many times when a BOCC meeting is packed with citizens and county staff it is an indication of topic requiring much public comment and discussion.

I asked a few people around me if they were part of this crowd but they too were perplexed by the masses.

It didn’t take long for my mystery to be solved as the Commissioners moved quickly to the topic that had garnered so much attention.  The anniversary celebrations of Lee County employees.

This is not a novel idea- many companies acknowledge team anniversaries, but what struck me was the wide spread support and enthusiastic mood of this celebration.  The crowd was not there to debate or discuss, but rather to cheer.  The Commissioners and the Lee County administration were not  just going through the motions handing out 5, 10, 15 and 25 year pins, but rather were fully engaged in recognizing the employees.

One by one the public servants made their way down the Commission Chamber aisle towards the dais. As their names and departments were announced loud and energetic cheers rose from their friends, families and colleagues.  They were greeted with pats on the back, smiles and congratulatory handshakes.  It had a bit of a red carpet feel as photographers captured shots of the honorees as they made their way toward the receiving line.

Family members of one of the 25 year recipients were sitting just ahead of me and they were bursting with pride as their loved ones’ names were announced as the employee made his/her way forward to accept a pin.  Suddenly I found myself becoming emotional. I came to the meeting for a business issue and was now moved to tears.

Animal Control, Human Services, Public Safety, Waste Management, Parks and Recreation were just a few of the departments represented and it struck me that the people being honored had played a major role in our community, most had committed well over a decade to me and the  other residents of Lee County.

In the world of philanthropy we often talk about private/public partnerships between government and the private and charitable sectors to create a vibrant community, but we can easily lose sight of the men and women who work tirelessly day in and day out to carry out those projects.  Those days turn into years, decades and careers and our community owes them a debt of gratitude.

As soon as the ceremony was over, most of the room cleared and the agenda moved ahead, but I knew all of the cheering section and honorees were back at work making a difference in Lee County and for that I am so grateful.  Keep up the great job.

If your team has a special way of acknowledging employees or volunteers for their service I would love to hear from you at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com.

Community Foundation’s new exhibit features PanAmerican Alliance artists

Community Foundation’s new exhibit features PanAmerican Alliance artists

Art reception scheduled for April 30

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 23, 2015) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation continues the spring season with another new exhibit in its 2014-2015 Art & Community exhibition series featuring work from the PanAmerican Alliance for Art, Culture and Industry, Inc.

The new exhibit includes more than 45 art pieces of varied mediums such as pastels, watercolor, acrylics, jewelry and more from Irma Backelant, Elizabeth Jaramillo, Jefferson Jones and Annie St. Martin, and more. The exhibit will run through May 28 and is available for public viewing hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule a tour, call Kim Williams at the Community Foundation office at 239-274-5900.

In honor of the new exhibit, the Community Foundation will hold a reception on Thursday, April 30 from 4 to 6 p.m. at its headquarters located at 8771 College Parkway, Building 2, Suite 201 in Fort Myers. Reservations may be submitted to Jacqueline Ehlers at jehlers@floridacommunity.com.

4-24 Elizabeth Jaramillo  Hibiscus 4-24 Annie St  Martin  Roseate Spoonbill

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, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Fund announces local grant recipients

Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Fund announces local grant recipients

Nearly $250,000 awarded to Southwest Florida organizations providing critical community programs 

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 22, 2015) – The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and Southwest Florida Community Foundation announced today that six local nonprofits will receive support through their new granting partnership. The two foundations have collaborated to create a vibrant grant program that will enable and support critical social innovation in the region of
Southwest Florida.

Awards include $46,350 to the Laboratory Theater of Florida for its Give Youth the Stage program, $48,800 to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation for its Combining Arts and Sciences to Improve Water Quality in Southwest Florida, $46,325 to Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. for its Community-Based Bicycle and Walking Audit program, $32,000 to the Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. to enhance its ARTREACH program, and $26,500 to Jewish Family Community Services for its Music Makes Memories program. The Alliance for the Arts was also awarded a $50,000 challenge grant for its Campus Enrichment Plan.

“The Rauschenberg Foundation grant allows Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation to broaden its reach for informing people about the critical nature of water quality in the Caloosahatchee, the estuary and around the islands,” said Kristie Anders, education director of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. “By using a multi-modal approach integrating the arts and science, we will attract an audience that may not currently be reached by SCCF’s standard communications. Using music, community art and brief talks in a more festive atmosphere and in a variety of venues, we hope to increase people’s desire to engage in conversation with one another and decision makers regarding one thing that brought many of us to Southwest Florida: the water, and at the interface of land and sea, the beaches.”

Projects and programs of particular interest were those led by nonprofits that are collaborating to address the region’s pressing issues, from youth development to climate change and environmental stewardship to equitable access to public services. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation facilitated the granting process, which culminated in a portfolio of projects submitted to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for its consideration.

“Since its founding in 1990, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has been committed to supporting the Southwest Florida area,” said Christy MacLear, executive director of the Rauschenberg Foundation. “Our goal was to deepen that support as well as encourage the most progressive ideas and high-impact organizations within the region.”

Since 2012, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has invested approximately $3.5 million into the local economies of Southwest Florida and its surrounding environs. The collaboration with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation was introduced to make the grants competitive and cross a wide range of services of need to the local population.

“This collaboration is a great example of funders working together to bring resources to our community, and we feel honored to work with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation as it continues its legacy of giving in Southwest Florida,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “We are looking forward to continuing to work alongside the foundation as it brings both a focus on innovative solutions and critical funding to our region.”

Nonprofit organizations interested in applying for support through this new grant program were first required to participate in a daylong workshop open to anyone wanting to learn more about collaborative program design called iLAB. The event was developed to prepare nonprofits to be more competitive for this and other grant opportunities, and to expose regional leaders to great ideas and best practices. Participants learned how to design a collaborative project with peer institutions as well as how this collaborative approach can lead to both additional funding and community change.

“Kids have powerful things to say about human trafficking and with targeted art instruction, students will have more tools and skills to get their messages across,” said Nola Theiss, executive director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, Inc. “The Rauschenberg grant will strengthen the ARTREACH program, increasing the impact of the young artists’ work. We look forward to putting the talent and insight of many local artists and instructors to work toward the empowerment of the young people we serve.”

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 is celebrating its 39th year of connecting donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $80 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $4 million to more than 100 different organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and $450,000 in scholarship grants.

The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation fosters the legacy of the artist’s life, work and philosophy that art can change the world. The foundation supports initiatives at the intersection of arts and issues that embody the fearlessness, innovation and multidisciplinary approach that Robert Rauschenberg exemplified in both his art and philanthropic endeavors. Since 2012, the foundation has broadened its philanthropic efforts including making grants to 170 organizations across the U.S., loaning more than 100 Rauschenberg artworks to 26 exhibitions globally and converting Rauschenberg’s home and studio on Captiva Island into a dynamic residency program for emerging and established artists.

For more information, visit www.rauschenbergfoundation.org or www.floridacommunity.com.

What a Difference a Day Makes

What a Difference a Day Makes

This morning my husband greeted me on the way to my first cup of coffee with a high five.  I was still half asleep but I did mumble something about feeling as if I was in a high school locker room instead of my kitchen.

Once  fully awake I asked a few more questions to find out if he was just being extra encouraging or if there was hidden meaning behind the midair hand slap. He informed me that it was National High Five Day.  He had plans to celebrate this homage to high fiving all day long.  I urged him to reconsider.

But then he reminded me of my recent obsession with National Pancake Day, National Hot Dog Day and National Donut Day which I took equally seriously.   So I sent him off to work with a sweet kiss on the cheek and an extra enthusiastic high five.

Clearly we need some hobbies, but it did get me thinking about days outside of traditional holidays that we set aside to advocate, honor and draw attention to issues or ideas that are on our minds.  There is something meaningful about setting aside a day and naming it in order to give it special importance.  Sometimes we need to be intentional about our thoughts and actions in order to advance an idea.

Of course I understand that some of the more trivial days are there for pure fun or to promote a specialty food item, but other earmarked days have been the catalyst for movements that create meaningful change.

April 22, 2015 marks one such day.   It is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.  Calendars in the late 60s and early 70s were not nearly as packed with special interest days as they are today but an early pioneer in the world of environmental protection, Senator Gaylord Nelson (D) from Wisconsin spent a number of years trying to find ways to encourage his fellow citizens to take notice of green issues like pollution and deforestation.

Senator Nelson did not set out to start a global movement, but rather wanted to provide individual communities the opportunity to focus on the environmental concerns in their own backyards.  He had taken notice that local grass roots organizations were making more headway than larger national efforts.

He took out an ad in the New York Times announcing the first Earth Day and across the country over 20 million people responded.  45 years later they are still responding.  Just take a look around Southwest Florida and there are weeklong rallies, activities and celebrations for all ages to mark the day.  It is a global movement with a focus on local solutions.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we see environmental advocates who embrace the message of Earth Day 365 days of the year- no special day on the calendar is needed.    We interact with donors and southwest Floridians that are asking about our region’s most precious resources and are seeking ways to learn more about our community’s land, air and water.  This was Nelson’s goal. Individuals being made aware of an issue and responding to it in order to effect grassroots change that would then collectively impact a nation and the earth as a whole.

That is a day we can all get behind- maybe even throw in a high five for fun.

If you would like to learn more about environmental efforts you can support all year long in the spirit of Earth Day please reach out to me at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com

I would also love to see pictures or hear stories of your 2015 Earth Day celebrations.

 

 

image from sites.psu.edu

 

 

The Nonprofit Job Skills You’ll Need by 2020

The Nonprofit Job Skills You’ll Need by 2020

How many of us currently working in the nonprofit sector have the skills that will be needed in the near future? The number of jobs in the U.S. nonprofit sector grew during the 2001-2010 period. During the same period, the number of jobs in the for-profit sector declined. A recent Fast Company article examined those statistics and asked the question, “What will it take to get a nonprofit job in 202?”

Top of the list is “data-savvy skills.” Several trends play into the increase for data-friendly skillsets. Nonprofits can now collect data faster, cheaper, and more efficiently, and measuring social impact is becoming key to telling the nonprofit’s story.

Thomas Tighe, president of Direct Relief, an international relief agency, says, “If anyone can do infographics and 15-second videos after having analyzed data and also translate the findings into low-cost activities that demonstrate results—you are desperately needed today and will be worshipped!”

Hynden family opens charitable fund through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Hynden family opens charitable fund through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 20, 2015) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently established a new fund for the Hynden family of Fort Myers.

The Hynden Family Charitable Fund was established by Eric and Sherri Hynden, both chartered financial consultants, to continue their lifelong mission of helping others after they’re gone.

The couple has spent their lives helping others and have also spent many years teaching their sons Daniel, 25, and Ben, 27, the value and joy of volunteerism and charitable contributions.

The elder Hyndens’ commitment to serve was strengthened after Eric read a book by Stanley Tam.

“He was a Christian man who gave away 90 percent of his company,” Eric said. “We set up our business to meet our salaries and use 80 percent of the profits to fund missions and charities.”

Tam’s book and the business patronage of the Southwest Florida community have influenced the Hyndens’ charitable giving to agencies supporting children and Christian missions. They’ve also been involved with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and its work, guiding clients with philanthropic interests to the organization.

The family has traveled around the world on faith-based mission trips and has donated their time and money to charities that help the underserved, be it the homeless, orphans or unmarried mothers. Locally, they support Teen Challenge’s program for drug addiction, the Gabriel House for abandoned, displaced and medically needy children, Verity Pregnancy and Medical Resource Center, and other causes.

“Any group that focuses on the spiritual health of the family and keeping families together is really important to me,” said Sherri. “There are needs everywhere you look. We have been so blessed by this community, and it is our way of giving back. We’re excited to get to know the groups the Community Foundation works with. They do such a good job paying attention to the community’s needs.”

The Hyndens will continue to contribute financially to their legacy annually while allocating money to charities of their choice each year.

“The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is convenient; its people are personable, and they know the needs of the community,” said Eric. “We wanted to leave something for our sons in our estate and more importantly, we wanted to set up a foundation that continues to give money away.”

Daniel and Ben, who serve as fund co-advisors, have followed their parents’ career paths in finance and work in the family’s Flint Financial Group office at UBS in Fort Myers. Sherri is a senior wealth strategy associate, and Eric is senior vice president of investments and a senior portfolio manager.

“We want to get Daniel and Benjamin involved now and take them with us to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation each year to make decisions as a family,” added Sherri. “We want them to see where the needs are. We are thankful to be able to do this.”

The Community Foundation has also introduced new programs to empower donors with ownership on the issues they care deeply about. Donors with donor-advised funds can choose their investment strategy, from conservative to more aggressive, and they can continue to work with their investment advisors through the foundation.

“We’ve made it even more convenient for donors to become vested in their giving, launching a Donor View portal on our new website that provides 24/7 internet access to their funds,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “Here, they can track the history of their giving, create reports and receipts, and conveniently make grants.”

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 $80 million, it has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.8 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. The Community Foundation granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

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

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One Thousand Two Hundred and Twelve Possibilities

This year the Southwest Florida Community Foundation received 1,212 scholarship applications from 304 SWFL students.  It will take 111 volunteer readers to score and evaluate information and nearly $500,000 and 70 scholarships will be awarded.

For every student who receives a yes, others will receive a compassionate no.  Most of these kids will have applied for a multitude of scholarships so we won’t be the only organization sending along both good and not-so-great news.  I give just as much thought to those kids we are not able to help as those we do.

I always take numbers and stats and create stories in my mind.  Although it is important for us to track the numbers, what I begin thinking about is the 304 individual stories that are represented by those applications.  They are someone’s daughter or son with so much hope and possibility in front of them.  They are a single mom returning to school or a first year law student trying to find a way to pay for year two.

Those are the broad strokes I paint but when I read some of the individual essays I get to know the students on a much deeper level.

It is amazing to learn about someone you have never met through a powerful essay.  I am humbled that both teens and adults alike are willing to share some of their deepest struggles in order to create an opportunity for their greatest hopes and aspirations.

I recall when my middle child was writing his personal statement for college applications and scholarships and chose bravely to reveal his seven year struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder.  I had always encouraged him to be bold in sharing his story but I must admit I worried if he would be judged by his transparency.  He wasn’t.  Instead the essay told the story of overcoming adversity to gain strength and perseverance.

The same is true with most all the applications we receive. The students share stories of accomplishments, dedication and personal values.   Our donors have established these scholarship funds to allow a wide variety of students with a broad range of qualifications to consider the possibilities of a future with a post-secondary degree or certification.

These donors join with us to create the opportunities for these students to accomplish their goals.  Not just to start on the road to a degree or career but finish the journey.  It is not just about gaining access to school but also having the resources to complete the program or degree.    Working together we are developing our future teachers, nurses, machinists, business owners, chefs and accountants.    Our job at the Foundation is to match the right student with a scholarship that helps them achieve the vision.

As I am imagining these stories of success I also let my mind wander to the students we didn’t reach.  Those who are finishing up their senior year in a few months who can’t afford their next step, or the adult student who is trying to get back to classes, or the first generation college student trying to become the first one in their family to navigate getting into school, or the student who we never connected with a mentor or information that could change their lives forever.

Our scholarship program not only represents the one thousand two hundred and twelve possibilities of those kids we reached but also the tens of thousands we didn’t.  I want to find a way to reach them.

If you can help us reach them, or if you would like to learn more about creating possibilities for local students through a scholarship fund reach out to me at iamlistening@floridacommunity.com