Cause & Effect: February 2015

Cause & Effect: February 2015

February 2015

This Lot: FULL 


A full parking lot means a full building. A full building at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation means a space filled with people who care about the community meeting to share ideas and solutions to issues facing Southwest Florida.

A little over three years ago the Board of Trustees and the team at the Foundation committed to becoming a community hub. We threw open our doors and started listening to donors, nonprofits and community advocates. We began the process of converting storage and offices into spaces designed for roundtable meetings, hung beautiful art created by Southwest Florida artists all over our walls and invited the community to come in to see it, and welcomed people in to share innovative ideas that could change our region.

Please join us for a roundtable, an art reception or just a visit in the Community Hub.


Let’s keep the conversation going. We have plenty of parking!


Upcoming Roundtables: 


The New Philanthropy

and a private briefing on

our work in the community

and its regional impact by Sarah Owen


Your choice of dates:


Wednesday, March 4

9 to 10 a.m.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation Office


Thursday, March 19

4 to 5 p.m.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation Office


Wednesday, March 25

4 to 5 p.m.

The Trianon Hotel

3401 Bay Commons Drive

Bonita Springs, FL 34134


RSVP to: 239-274-5900 or 
Click Here


Please note this is not a fund raising appeal



U.S. Under Secretary of Education Meets with SWFL leaders on Education


U.S Under Secretary of Education    Ted Mitchell at Rtiz Carlton last week
Last weekend, Under Secretary Ted Mitchell joined a small group of  community and business leaders to discuss the future of education in our region. He encouraged the group to continue to focus on attainment siting that only 50% of students who begin college or a training program actually complete the degree or certification, and first generation students are the highest among the population not reaching completion.
“We need to provide support systems for these students to succeed,” said Mitchell. In addition, he lauded the community for its work on the charter and acceptance into Lumina Foundation’s national cohort. “
It is a big deal to be invited into this national cohort,” he said. “In 10 years, I look forward to coming back to SWFL and seeing great change because of your work.”
Save the Date and Join Us:
FutureMakers Rally
Wed., March 11, 8 to 10 a.m.
Miromar Design Center, Estero

Women’s Legacy Fund News: Better Together


It’s that time of year to renew or to become a contributor to the Women’s Legacy Fund. A collective philanthropy group, the WLF inspires women around giving, and issues and causes related to women in SWFL. Contributor renewals have gone out in the mail, and a call for new Contributors begins now. For more information, please click here. Together we can do so much more than we could ever do alone. Please join us!


Upcoming WLF Events:


Ft. Myers Film Festival Special Screening of “Hardy,” especially for WLF Contributors – COMPLIMENTARY
Thursday, March 26, 5 p.m.

Bell Tower Theaters  

Prima Donor meet the director and Heather Hardy, leading lady of “Hardy.”
Friday, March 27, 3 – 5 pm
Foundation Office Community Hub


WLF Spring Contributors’ Luncheon
Thursday, May 14
Gulf Harbour Yacht & Country Club

Note: For WLF Contributors only 

Invitations are forthcoming, or click here if you would like an invitation.

Ideas Take Flights
Update on Impact Forum

It all began as an idea and now one project has taken form to solve a community problems.


An important result of the Florida Next Impact Forum held in Collier County on November 5, 2014, was Valerie’s House, presented as a safe place for people can go who suffer loss. Angela Melvin presented the idea that has gained momentum through


Valerie’s House raised $6,100 from 64 donors. Because of our partnership with Florida Next, Valerie’s House is gaining traction with seed money, volunteers helping to form a board, and a plan to create a special place for children and families in Southwest Florida to connect with one another and learn the tools to heal after they have experienced tragedy, loss and death.


The purpose of Valerie’s House is to help families in Southwest Florida work through their loss together and go on to live successful lives.

Keep an eye out for more developments on Valerie’s House, or for more information on other start ups, visit


It’s Scholarship Season!


The deadline for applications by students is fast approaching next week on March 2, 2015. Click here for more information.


Scholarship readers have been recruited and are now training for the difficult task of selecting the 2015 recipients. Nearly $500,000 will be granted from our more than 75 scholarship funds. As we like to say, “the future is bright!”


Check out this story about one of our special scholarship donors:

The G. Napier & Ellen T Wilson Scholarship Fund

The New Tribes of Southwest Florida

The New Tribes of Southwest Florida

Have you heard anything about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s “tribes”? Maybe the thought of it gave you pause or made you think “what does that mean?” Tribes, as we consider them, are groups of people who share a passion and gather together around that passion — paying respect to the tribes of the past and seeking to connect the tribes of the future. Dr. Dave Fleming, the Foundations’ Chief Strategy Officer, guides our learning with the tribes through his research and development of the concept of Tribal Alchemy – turning lesser into better with the raw materials of change.

Our tribes share a passion for regional change. The members are our grantees who work in nonprofits and other agencies to make things better for our community – for children, animals, and neighborhoods. We bring together these passionate people to build a stronger understanding of our region and the positive change it needs.

Many nonprofits and service providers in our area gather together occasionally to share updates and ideas, but many others are isolated in their work – in siloes. We believe that this isolated work is a hardship for nonprofits and does not lead to sustained regional change. This is why we support and develop the connections between nonprofits by giving them space to thrive together and reflect on their work. We ask the leadership of our nonprofit grantees to set aside time each month for “tribe meetings.”

Our work with the tribes is always dynamic, responding to our grantee partners and our regional community. Sometimes the tribes are small and issue-focused. Sometimes they are more inclusive. Sometimes they coalesce around a particular goal or program. The Foundation acts as facilitator to help the tribes come together in meaningful ways and to be better from the experience.

Our grantee tribes follow a path together. They share the challenges and opportunities they encounter. They creatively reflect on their work and discuss innovative solutions to common challenges.  We encourage open dialogue on missed opportunities, so we can fail forward. The tribe gatherings bring together leaders to strategically think on their programs – a rare opportunity in the bustle of everyday nonprofits. The Foundation also uses the tribes to provide support to nonprofits, particularly in the areas of leadership development, evaluation, and sustainability, something that is often financially out of reach for small nonprofits.

The tribes function on another level as well. They build the networks of nonprofits. These networks can be called on later to access resources and collaborate around bigger issues. What does this ultimately mean? Less cost and more change – pretty important things for nonprofit organizations and our community!

The Foundation benefits from the tribes as well. Our understanding of the work our grantee partners do in the community grows through the interactions during the tribe meetings, regular coaching sessions, and visits. This makes us better informed on our community and helps us provide tailored support to our grantees so they can make change in our region – real outcomes.

We are happy to be a part of the new tribes of Southwest Florida, as we learn and share together on this journey of regional change.   Do you have a cause that you care about deeply?  Check out our website and tell us which one is most important to you at and go to the SOLVE page.  We want to know!  Or email Cindy at


Big Time, Real Time

Big Time, Real Time

This past week we celebrated President’s Day. When we think about the President, it doesn’t take too long before we also think about leadership. In fact, being President is often viewed as the ultimate leadership position. I understand why, of course. The scope and authority of the job is unparalleled. The President is often described as the leader of the “free world.” That’s quite the bullet point on a resume. I mean that kind of visibility and power reveals the pinnacle of leadership. Right? I wonder if there’s a fallacy in equating the success of a leader with the size and scope of his or her job description. I’ll call it the fallacy of the big time.

When we use the phrase “the big time” it usually refers to someone that has reached a level of success that becomes visible to large numbers of people. “You’ve hit the big time,” we might say to a person with a new and high-powered job. “Big time,” can also mean that a person has amassed a significant amount of power. “Wow, that’s big time,” we might say to someone with enough power or money to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. So from the “big time” perspective, the President is the ultimate example of leadership success, or at least right up at the top of the list.

Great leaders focus not on the fleeting nature of the big time, but on a compelling mission (the work) that is done in and through meaningful relationships (the people). Authentic leadership then comes when the leader focuses on the work and the people not his or her current visibility and power quotients. This of course is easier said than done. No one would argue that ego plays a role in most types of leadership. That’s why focus matters so much. When a leader is tempted toward arrogant leadership (the big time), he or she gets too far away from the work and the people that matter. Time to refocus on the real-time not the big time.

“Big time” thinking can be the undoing of good leaders. Why? When leaders equate successful leadership with hitting the big time, they focus on getting noticed and amassing power. Popularity and power become the drivers of action rather than gifts bestowed by others. And that’s when everything goes haywire. Arrogant or power-hungry leaders repel us all because they seek the wrong things. They do a kind of smash and grab. Arrogant leaders often smash people around them in order to gain visibility. They also grab power in order to cement their control. In an attempt to reach the big time, they ignore the essence of leadership.

At the SWFL Community Foundation, we convene and collaborate with leaders from all sectors of our region. Our desire is to be humble brokers of the great ideas, skills and passions found in the people of Southwest Florida. We do this because we know it takes all of us (the people) focused on strategic action (the work) to bring about meaningful change. When we lead and work together, it turns smash and grab into include and share, and that increases the effectiveness of our efforts.

So this next week, no matter what kind of leadership you find yourself performing (at home or work) remember these four things:

1.            The big time is fleeting; trying to achieve it isn’t worth your time

2.            Don’t chase power, share it

3.            Don’t focus on getting noticed, focus on doing great work

4.            If you happened to hit the big time, refer back to numbers 1-3

photo from




Stuff we are Reading

Stuff we are Reading

Putting Community in Collective Impact by Richard C. Harwood

Our program evaluator Cindy Banyai, Ph.D. shared her comments and highlights on this report.  Check it out here and her comments are below:

  • “collective impact efforts must be aligned and calibrated to the context of community ” p. 6
  • “The success of collective impact depends on genuine ownership by the larger community that starts with placing a value, not only on expert knowledge, but also on public knowledge that comes only from authentically engaging the
    community. ” pp. 6-7 [why we need to bring the broader community voice into the planning of regional initiatives]
  • [so, so key!} “…engaging a community cannot be satisfied merely by asking people to react to data, or by using community conversations to “test” pre-set strategies, or by equating “engagement” with marketing plans. Rather, the starting point must be to engage people on their shared aspirations for the community. ” p. 7
  • [rationale for using Asset-Based Community Development] “Asking about shared aspirations is different from asking people about the “problems” they see, which only creates a deficit approach that inevitably leads to finger-pointing and arguments over pre-set solutions. ”   p. 7
  •  “Fit” involves more than just doing the numbers, collecting the latest information about programs and best practices, and aligning different groups. These steps alone will not necessarily lead to alignment with the community….Fit also involves knowing that communities go through several stages – and the key is to know which stage a community is in at any given time. Each has its own implications – or do’s and don’ts –for creating change. ” p. 8 [btw, I think we're at the Waiting Place on the chart on p. 9]
  • “…the key hidden factor in whether a community moves forward or not is its narrative…Many communities are dogged by an ingrained negative narrative…” p. 13 [this reminds me of how many times I've heard people here say "Don't reinvent the wheel" that the SWFL narrative?]
Give Back to the Future

Give Back to the Future

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, email me at 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.




Crowd Funding: Time is running out for Fab Lab Fort Myers!

Crowd Funding: Time is running out for Fab Lab Fort Myers!

Two great ideas – Valerie’s House and Fab Lab Fort Myers – were standouts at the 2014 #SWFL Impact Forum. You can help make them a reality. Learn about Fab Lab Fort Myers below and click the link to make a contribution to either project today! Every little bit helps.

A Fab Lab is a woodshop for the 21st century; an open, creative community for artists, inventors, scientists, engineers, educators, students and professionals of all ages. Imagine a place where conversations about new ideas and creating new things happens every day!

Physically, the “lab” has the latest fabrication equipment to bring ideas to life, such as laser cutters, 3-D printers, etc. It also provides stimulus for local entrepreneurship. Fab Labs democratize access to the tools for technical invention. The real innovation is in the network.

Our Fab Lab will be connected to over 300 other labs in 30 countries, and will be only the 2nd lab in Florida. We will use the same off-the-shelf equipment and we will have access to the latest software and expertise. Participants will simultaneously learn and mentor both locally and throughout the network.

Love Languages

Love Languages

Nothing says I love you like an unloaded dishwasher. Or so goes the firmly held belief of a close friend who claims that she does not need gifts or words of admiration, but rather acts of service from her spouse to make her heart swoon.

I always found it odd when she would mention this as there is nothing about a freshly mowed lawn or vacuumed area rug that seems even remotely romantic to me. But upon further investigation and research I learned that all of us both speak and react in certain love languages.

Meaning that what speaks sweet nothings to me may not be the same for you and vice versa. Apparently there are five ways to express and receive love. Gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch. Frankly all five sound wonderful to me, but we each have a primary language that makes for optimal love reception.

With the love language concept it is important to identify our own primary love language and even more beneficial to know the language of those we love. Many of us make the mistake of trying to show love in the language we respond to best rather than what would relay that affection to those closest to us.

This explains the dishwasher unloading love note that I never understood. My friend clearly sees acts of service as her primary love language while mine more closely lines up with quality time spent. I would much rather have a load of dishes sit unattended and go on a long walk with my partner (which is why we always have an overloaded dishwasher).

During this season of love I began to realize that this concept could also apply to the charitable organizations we support. So many times when we love a cause or organization we express our support through a monetary donation. We know the money is needed for the mission and we want to show our love for our community and our Southwest Florida neighbors.

Don’t misunderstand me- this is a generous, important and loving gesture but in the day to day operations of a nonprofit other love languages are needed and can be of great value.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a donor and trustee of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation filled with words of affirmation and encouragement for a particular project I was struggling to complete. I read the email several times and was ready to face the day and the challenge with new energy. That small act was priceless in the moment.

Getting that note made me wonder when the last time I had sent a note of affirmation to an executive director of an organization I contribute to along with my donation. I don’t have to limit myself to only one of the languages when expressing my support.

Depending on what is happening in an organization or where they are in a growth cycle, quality time or acts of service through volunteering, or encouraging words to a staff member or person who is struggling might be the best way to show love and impact your community. The important thing is to really listen and find out what they need.

This Valentine’s Day I am going to spend some time learning some new love languages. I want those serving our community to know how much they are loved and valued. I would enjoy hearing about how you express your love and support to the causes you care about at

The Philanthropy Show featuring the Next Big Conversation

The Philanthropy Show featuring the Next Big Conversation

This edition of the show shares discussion about Philanthropy in Florida real-time. As a wrap up to the Florida Philanthropic Network Annual Summit, grantmakers talk about trends in making change featuring our President & CEO Sarah Owen, FPN President & CEO David Biemsderfer, Susan Towler, VP of Florida Blue Foundation and Mark Brewer, president and CEO of the Central Florida Foundation.

Take Heart

Take Heart

This time of year I begin to take a little closer notice of my mail. Not the electronic mail that daily floods my inbox, but my “snail mail” is what captures my undivided attention.

This February obsession with the postal service dates back to my earliest childhood memories of Valentine’s Day, in which an ordinary elementary classroom would be transformed into a post office that delivered heartfelt greetings and candy conversation hearts.

On the first day of the month of love, my homeroom teachers would forgo the usual lesson plans and help me and my fellow classmates craft personal mailboxes from milk cartons, shoe boxes or overly garnished paper bags.

I was never very crafty so my mailboxes never looked all that festive, but it didn’t matter because I knew I had created a post office box that would reap many tiny white envelopes filled with heart felt greetings. I would reciprocate with my own painstakingly selected Valentines, making sure I had matched just the right message to each of my classmates unique personalities and always saving the largest cards in the box for my teachers.

Even decades later I don’t think anything matches up to the simple sentiments in those early Valentine wishes and over the years, no matter how often I checked my grown up mail boxes there were no signs of the tiny flimsy cards- that is until a couple of years ago when out of the blue at work one showed up in my work mail cubby.

It wasn’t an internal delivery from one of my workmates, it had come through the post office and was disguised in a regulation sized envelope but once opened I discovered one of the tiny greetings. It was from a colleague who I had spent the better part of the previous year mending a damaged professional relationship. We had both worked hard opening up the lines of communication and reestablishing good relations between the organizations we led. It had been tough at times but we were able to work through the issues that had hindered a positive working relationship.

The Valentine greeting simple read, “Let’s be friends.” After a year of conversation, deliberation and compromise I was blown away by how this simple card captured everything. I still have the card in my desk and look at it when I am dealing with other tough situations in the work place.

It makes me wonder about the effect of using simple language when we are addressing complex issues in our community. Not in an effort to minimize or discount the problems we face but rather to clearly communicate both the needs and the calls to action to solve them.

Last week I attended a seminar in which a communications expert challenged a group of nonprofit leaders to condense their message to fit on a trademark Valentine conversational heart.

What if we replaced “Be Mine” or “True Love” with sentiments that could inspire others around a cause? “Conserve Water”, “Feed a Child”, “Give Generously”, “Stop Abuse”, “Spay Your Animal”, “Get Involved”, “Lend a Hand”, “Mentor a Student”, “Ring a Bell”, “Recycle”.

The Valentine confections are called “conversational hearts” for a reason. Clearly they are not intended to be the solution or the final word, but rather to getting a dialogue going.

Simple sentiments based on love. I think that is a great place to start a conversation and I hope I never outgrow that idea. I think this year instead of checking my mailbox I will send some Valentines of my own. If you have some simple messages regarding community issues or ideas on how to solve them, please contact me

About the SWFL 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 $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.

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