Art Exhibit and Reception

Art Exhibit and Reception

Southwest Florida Fine Craft Guild Exhibit & Sale

Reception will be held on December 11th from 4-6 pm

Over 100 pieces in the exhibit, with mediums such as Fused Glass, Clay, Mixed Media and Jewelry — great holiday gifts!

Featuring artists such as James “JR” Roberts, Jay Lana, Kathryn Hendricks Erickson and Toni Ory


What are you serving for Thanksgiving?

What are you serving for Thanksgiving?

What are you serving for Thanksgiving?  One of our donors at the SWFL Community Foundation (let’s call her Nana) is serving checks.

When her grandchildren were little (Zoe, now 11 and Jason, now 9) she explained that there were poor children who did not have food at Thanksgiving and she gave them each $5, knowing that they would want to give it to less fortunate children.

The following year she gave them a check from her checkbook and let them choose which organization to give it to.  Every year the children now know that next to the placard at their seat (designed by Zoe) they will find a check in an envelope.

The education in thankfulness and philanthropy has continued, now that Nana is giving checks of $25 each. A few years ago, the children were asked to explain what they were most concerned about or interested in supporting — Animals? The environment? Hungry children? The arts?

Understandably, the gifts went to places they had been or knew about — Ding Darling, a food bank, the Alliance for the Arts.

Last year Zoe (“the cruise director,” Nana calls her) decided to organize the pre-dinner conversation. Standing with her clipboard and handouts, she facilitated a conversation with all the adults, passing out a sheet of “issues.”

Every person had to pick one. Then she distributed a list of three local nonprofits for each issue.  Uncle Arthur wanted “veterans.” She had a list. By the time the turkey was ready, everyone had chosen a nonprofit. (Nana did not supply checks for the adults.)

How to instill your values at Thanksgiving or any other time is simple: don’t tell, show. Involve your children at a young age. Let them ask questions. Allow them to participate in giving decisions. Trust them to think independently.

Little eyes are watching, little ears are listening.  Whether it’s swear words or philanthropy, children pick up everything by osmosis.

Nana and Papa have a modest fund at the SWFL Community Foundation, which acts as their primary “checkbook for charities.” When they want to make a charitable donation –in honor or in memory of someone, or perhaps for an alma mater — they contact Andrea McKiddie, the donor services coordinator, at the Foundation and she does it all for them. But that’s not why they have the fund.

“Yes, it is easy,” Nana said. “But we also like the fact that the fund is all set up and will be the charitable checkbook for our son, who is our successor advisor. He can direct grants to nonprofits from it, hopefully with the continued advice of Zoe and Jason!”

Interested in opening a fund at the SWFL Community Foundation?  It’s easy and anyone can do it.  Check it out on our website, or call 239-274-5900.  And, most of all, Happy Thanksgiving.


by Dawn-Marie Driscoll, Immediate Past Chair, Board of Trustees


Social Entrepreneurs Make Pitch to Make Impact

Social Entrepreneurs Make Pitch to Make Impact

I always raise an eyebrow when I hear comments about the perception of the next generation, or Next Gens, as lazy or disengaged.  It’s easy to lump people together when they think or act differently and to assume they just don’t belong, both of which I have heard on more than one occasion.  These sentiments were challenged in the most inspiring way at the Florida Next Southwest Florida Impact Forum last Wednesday night at the Silverspot Theatre in Collier County.

The SWFL Impact Forum was the result of a partnership between the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Florida Next Foundation, a nonpartisan, 501c3 nonprofit organization working to empower young people, entrepreneurs, and small businesses to drive the innovation needed to enhance Florida’s economy and quality of life.

Impact Forums are held all over the state and create a venue for Next Gens, to give a 90 second pitch to solve a community problem. (A daunting task for the most seasoned professional.)  Once the ideas are pitched, the audience votes to choose the top three ideas.  The three winning pitches were set up for crowdfunding on the spot and identified at least one metric that would demonstrate the success of their solution in addressing the problem they want to solve.

Over the next year, the winners will work with the Florida Next Foundation to bring their ideas to fruition.  In six months, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation will hold a Compassionate Shark Tank with local philanthropists to give the winning Next Gens another opportunity to fund their innovative solutions.

The ideas ranged from mentors to address an epidemic of bullying and internships to stop the cycle of poverty in underserved communities to creative placemaking and redevelopment.  SWFL’s biggest challenges, workforce and small business start-ups, those that are consistently the topic of conversation among local leaders, were addressed in a variety of thoughtful ways by Next Gens from throughout the SWFL.

The challenges young professionals face in finding diverse and high-paying jobs in SWFL are the very challenges these Impact Forum pitchers are ready to tackle.  These social entrepreneurs identified innovative opportunities that are not just big ideas.  Instead, they provided viable solutions that, with the right support, could lead to real positive outcomes.

Over the course of the evening, the theatre was filled with ideas demonstrating the heart, passion, and ingenuity of Southwest Florida’s Next Gens.  It was a testament to the innovation that lives in this community and made everyone ponder the notion that maybe all we need to do is provide the forum for the Next Gens to have a real impact.  Take a look at the winners, and maybe they will inspire you to start thinking too at

Together, we can make our region an even better place to live, learn, work and play.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation welcomes new board member

Southwest Florida Community Foundation welcomes new board member

With more than 30 years experience in the utility industry, Hamilton became the fourth CEO in Lee County Electric Cooperative’s (LCEC) 74-year history in 2007 after serving two years as the organization’s director of administration. While at LCEC, he has been instrumental in streamlining the corporate strategic planning process, formalizing and communicating a corporate value position, strengthening performance measures and implementing an employee engagement initiative. Hamilton currently chairs the Lee County Horizon Council and the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council Board of Directors, and serves on the Member Representatives Committee of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance. He is very involved in supporting the community through LCEC social responsibility activities such as United Way, the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Keep Lee County Beautiful. He hold’s two master’s degrees from Texas A&M University in nuclear engineering and from Tulane University in business administration.

“Dennie’s visionary approach to problem solving and business acumen, coupled with extensive knowledge of our region, particularly in both philanthropy and economic development, make him a valuable new member of our team,” said Sarah Owen, president and 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 is celebrating its 37th 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 $57 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, the Foundation 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.

For more information, visit the Community Foundation’s website at or call 239-274-5900.


UNITE Award finalists announced

UNITE Award finalists announced

$25,000 will be awarded for best collaboration, $2,500 awarded to the top two runners up

Five finalists have made it to the final round of judging for the 2015 UNITE (Uniting Nonprofits In Teaming for Excellence) Award.

Established by Myers, Brettholtz & Company, PA and supported by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Cape Coral Community Foundation and the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties, the UNITE Award is a regional award that recognizes successful nonprofit collaborative models across the five-county area that exemplify excellence and community impact. Its goal is to provide information to the nonprofit community about collaborative models that have succeeded in our area and to share proven effective practices for nonprofits working together.

This year’s call for entries received 21 applications. Twelve collaborations made it to the second round before the five finalists were chosen.

The five finalists include:

·         Guidance Programs for Success (GPS) – GPS expands access to after-school programs for grades K-12 in Immokalee. Partners include the Guadalupe Center, RCMA Immokalee Community School, Immokalee Foundation, Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board, Collier County Public Schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and Naples Children and Education Foundation.

·         Partners in the Fight Against Human Trafficking – Abuse Counseling & Treatment and Human Trafficking Awareness Partnership are part of the Southwest Florida Regional Coalition that coordinates efforts and training among law enforcement agencies, human service providers, and federal and local government agencies.

·         Teen Outreach Program – The Teen Outreach Program collaboration began in 2006 with three agencies teaming to serve at-risk teens in two rural counties. In 2013, 13 more agencies were added to the collaboration, and today, there are currently 22 partners serving five counties.

·         Lee Community Healthcare – The Lee Community Healthcare initiative is a collaboration with Lee Memorial Health System and United Way to provide medical care and social services to disadvantaged and medically underserved in Lee County.

·         Bonita Springs Assistance Office – The “Money Matters” Class was created for clients of the BSAO. In collaboration with New York Community Bank, the BSAO teaches clients how to be better stewards of their money.

The Bob Janes Triage Center/Low Demand Shelter was the winner of the inaugural UNITE Award in January 2014 and received the $25,000 cash prize. In addition, each of the runners up, Families First: Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Florida Inc. and Child Care of Southwest Florida, Inc. and Southwest Florida Addiction Services/Lee Mental Health Merger, received $2,500 thanks to funding made available by Wayne Smith of the Smith Family Foundation who wished to reward the other finalists for their dedication to collaboration in the community.

The 2015 winner will be announced at the annual Myers, Brettholtz & Company’s full-day nonprofit seminar to be held on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, at the Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport-Town Center. Once again, the top winner will receive $25,000 thanks to the support by Myers, Brettholtz & Company, PA, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Cape Coral Community Foundation and the United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, and the top two runners up will receive $2,500 each from the Smith Family Foundation.

“Each of the 21 entries we received this year were inspiring,” said Lori Sampson-Wilson, principal of Myers, Brettholtz. “It clearly shows that our regional nonprofits are working together to achieve positive collaborative results.”

To be eligible for this year’s award, a collaboration had to:

·         Be based in the five-county Southwest Florida area (Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades)

·         Involve two or more entities (i.e., nonprofit organizations, businesses and/or government agencies)

·         Include a lead organization that is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit

·         Have a structure that is evidenced by a formal written agreement (i.e., memorandum of understanding, contract or merger agreement)

·         Be able to demonstrate the impact of the collaboration through measurable outcomes

·         Have been in operation for a minimum of 18 months with a formal written agreement in place no later than March 1, 2013.

For more information on the UNITE Award, call 239-939-5775 or visit Myers, Brettholtz & Company’s website at, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s website at or the United Way’s website at

Deadline for submission was Sept. 30, 2014.

Since 1979, Myers, Brettholtz & Company, PA has been working with nonprofit organizations in Southwest Florida’s five-county region, helping them achieve their goals. The company serves clients across the nation by performing accounting and auditing, tax preparation, bookkeeping and consulting.

Getting to Yes   

Getting to Yes  

One of the greatest moments at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is when we contact local nonprofits to tell them that –yes- we will be investing in a project they submitted through one of our impact grant cycles.  This “yes” yields an energizing moment filled with all the possibilities of starting something that could change our corner of the world.

It is a fulfilment of our steadfast promise to donors who have opened funds with us and have entrusted us to grant their money out into the community according to their wishes in the most impactful and most effective way possible.

Read More

Bonita Springs Community Fund to present $20,000 grants to local nonprofits

Bonita Springs Community Fund to present $20,000 grants to local nonprofits

Bonita Springs Community Fund Presents $20,000 in Grants
Bonita Springs Community Fund Presents $20,000 in Grants

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 3, 2014) – The Bonita Springs Community Fund, a fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, will present $20,000 in grants to three local nonprofit organizations during the one of the Foundation’s annual evenings of gratitude on Thursday, Nov. 13.

“This year, we held a Bonita Springs-centered call to all Bonita-centric nonprofits for grant requests and a “Compassionate Shark Tank” modeled after the popular TV show to allow local nonprofits to make grant request presentations to a panel of our Advisory Board members,” said Debi Braendle, a Bonita Springs business owner and member of the Bonita Springs Community Fund. “This format allowed the nonprofits to really engage with our board and leaders to show the great need in our community.”

Read More

Calling All Idea Chasers

Calling All Idea Chasers

I have always been fascinated by storm chasers. They seem to be a special breed that load up into cargo vans outfitted with all kinds of scientific equipment and chase down nature in its most disruptive state. They head toward things that most of us would avoid at all cost. I am sure they have a thrill seeker gene, but they have directed that impulse to science and finding answers to mysteries of the havoc that can be created in the natural world.

They choose to chase storms, but they are unique only in what they are seeking. I think we all chase something. Lately at the office I have been considering what our team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation chases. Some might think we are always seeking new streams of funding to be able to do more work in the community, but that is not the case.

Read More