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The Last Word

The Last Word

My training in getting the last word came from raising teenagers over the past two decades. There were many discussions in our house that I thought were over but my kids would throw in a last word, sigh, eye roll or gesture. Employing what I thought to be good parenting strategies I would resist the urge to slip a last word of my own in and run. Sometimes it was harder than others but I managed to hold the line. I think it was good practice for restraint in many other areas of my life.

Of course in leadership roles I am sometimes called on to make a final decision but that is after input from my team and stakeholders. I never consider it having the last word on a subject.

So imagine my surprise when I received an email imploring and welcoming me to have the last word. The correspondence indicated that others were actually waiting for my word. This seemed exciting and I checked to see if one of my kids sent it in some type of delayed apology for all those sighs.

The request was not from my adult children but from our team here at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. As I have shared in this column the Foundation is in the midst of celebrating our 40th anniversary.

As part of the celebration we are collecting words from our donors, supporters and friends that capture how they feel about giving and their history with us. Words are powerful and selecting just one to capture a relationship can be inspiring. We are hearing from a diverse group of people, some have been part of the Foundation family since year one while others are new to the family. Seeing the words together creates a beautiful tapestry of emotions and history.

Effective, Loving, Exciting, Caring, Innovative, Life Changing, Endowment, Service, Satisfaction, Focus, Hope, Legacy, Supportive, Wow, Great, Amazing, Outstanding, Knowledgeable, Happiness, Generosity…and the list goes on with hundreds of words.

The email from our team was just to remind me that they were waiting on my word. I was the last person they needed to hear from for a campaign they are creating around our 40th Anniversary. What’s Your Word? That is our campaign this year to hear from people who have been touched by the work of the Foundation.

So I guess as the leader of this organization, I finally I have the chance to have the last word, but I am not going to take it. My word has yet to be written. I want to hold the place where my word would live wide open and stay quiet. Your words are what matter the most. What do you think? Ends up I don’t really want the last word after all, but I am excited to hear yours. Please visit www.floridacommunity.com/your-word . There you can tell us your word, and also see short videos that will be posted every week where others share their words with the community. After 40 years of “giving, philanthropy, service, give-back, happiness, etc…” It is nice to hear.

We would love to hear from you.

What’s Your Word?

What’s Your Word?

Over the past few weeks I have been telling anyone who will listen that it’s great to be 40…again!

Those that know me roll their eyes while those who don’t are left wondering how to tell me I am not aging well.  Clearly I have not discovered the secret to turning back the clock but have been enjoying celebrating the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s 40th anniversary.

It has been interesting to consider that I am serving in an organization that was created around the time I was approaching my teenage years.  Just like people organizations grow up, mature, learn valuable lessons, change and build relationships.

I think anyone will tell you that it is impossible to look 40 years into the future and predict what will happen to a person or an organization.  At the Community Foundation we are very fortunate to have founders, John Sheppard and Tom Smoot and many of the early supporters and trailblazers, still actively involved in our work.  They would be quick to confirm that when they launched the Community Foundation here they could have never predicted the opportunities and challenges that would be facing our region 40 years in the future.

As people and organizations grow up they mean different things to others along the way.  Anniversaries and birthdays give us the chance to reflect on the relationships that have mattered in our lives.

In 1976, the founding year of the Foundation, I turned 12 and distinctly remember having a party in which one of the gifts was an autograph dog.  It was a stuffed animal made of material that allowed you sign it with a special marker.  At the party all my friends wrote one word that they felt best described me.  At the time it seemed just a fun pre teen exercise but I found I hung on to that dog filled with my words all the way through college.  Those words mattered to me because they reminded me of the relationships I had and how others perceived me at that time in my life.

Words are powerful and when choosing just one to describe someone or something you have to give special consideration to how you feel.

For the Foundation’s 40th we were presented with a very special gift from Commercial Photographer Brian Tietz.  He is well known throughout the state for his editorial portraiture.  In keeping with the spirit of giving and philanthropy Brian donated his talents to us to capture the “Faces of Philanthropy” an exhibit that features nearly 100 philanthropists from across the region.

But we didn’t just capture their images.  We also asked them for a word – one word that represented what the Southwest Florida Community Foundation meant to them.  The Faces were nominated from the community at large and ranged in age from 8 to 90.  Some of them had been closely associated with the Foundation, as donors and fund holders while others knew of us through their charitable work in the region.  It was great to get a diverse perspective.

Just as I treasured the words from my friends, my hope is that our Foundation will carry these words with us for the next 40 years, while creating new ones all along the way.

Effective, Loving, Exciting, Caring, Innovative, Life Changing, Endowment, Service, Satisfaction, Focus, Hope, Legacy, Supportive, Wow, Great, Amazing, Outstanding, Knowledgeable, Happiness, Generosity, Beneficial, Outreach, Responsive, Clarity, Comprehensive, Multifaceted, Like-minded, Giving, New Thinking, Forever, Kindness, Responsible, Connectivity, Powerful, Futuristic, Amazing, Enabling, Comprehensive, Catalyst, Opportunity, Joy, Yes, Awesome, Embracing, Engaging, Fantastic, Stewardship, Give Back, Reliable, Exemplary, Committed, Organized, In Good Hands, Ultimate Philanthropy, Warmth, Enormous, Heartwarming, Facilitator, Philanthropy, Unique, Progressive, Encouraging, Broad, Effective, Trustworthy, Leverage, Valuable.

We’d love to know what you think about our work now and your hope for the future in celebration of our 40th anniversary, so please go to our website at www.floridacommunity.com/your-word and tell us.  There you can tell us your word, and also see short videos that will be posted every week from our many “Faces.”

 

Sarah Owen is president & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @ListeninginSWFL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever Happened to Bob?

Whatever Happened to Bob?

Something special happens when we get together with friends who share a long and common history.  It might be high school teammates, college roommates or colleagues we worked with building a project or company.

Those relationships have the unique ability to stand the test of time and even if years pass with little or no contact the conversation can pick up as if we were all just together yesterday.

Inside jokes, life changing moments and common experiences are the fabric of these reunions.  I always love it when I find myself laughing just as hard at the retelling of a story that happened decades ago as I did when it happened the first time.

Recently I was invited to join a birthday celebration with a group of friends who had been close in high school and gathered about once or twice a year to catch up.   I was a bit worried about tagging along, as I knew that I would have no clue what they were talking about for most of the night.

But actually it was fun to observe them and listen in as they reminisced.  Eventually the conversation turned to recalling specific people from their past that they had lost touch with over the years.  It was a roll call of classmates and they pondered the question, “whatever happened to Bob, Jill, Tom, or that guy that took you to Prom?”

Even in this day of extreme connectivity through technology and social media, we lose touch with people.  Our lives begin to go in different orbits and seasons of life change.  Staying connected takes an intentional effort in our fast paced society.

Each year the Southwest Florida Community Foundation awards close to 100 scholarships to local students to assist them in pursuing post-secondary degrees and certifications.  As you can imagine we become connected to the recipients through the application and interview process.   Many times we meet their families and we communicate with them as they are beginning their new path in life.

In some cases we are also able to arrange a meeting between the scholarship donor and their recipients, which creates a special bond.  But several years ago I would overhear our team, scholarship donors, and application reviewers ask the “whatever happened to Bob?” question.

As close as we became to the recipients for a short period of time, we were losing touch with them as they transitioned to a new chapter in their lives.  Once in a while a student would reach back out to us or connect on our Facebook page and we would all be so excited to receive the updates.

When donors establish funds to support a student with tuition for technical colleges or universities their vision is to create a fulfilling career.  No one establishes a scholarship for the purpose of just getting a student into school, but rather to assist them in getting done and connected to a job, and a fulfilling career.

This makes the “whatever happened to Bob?” critically important in this conversation.

At the Foundation we are creating ways for donors to support students throughout their education rather than just first year funding, we are opening lines of communication that are easily maintained so we don’t lose touch.  We are launching a pilot that enables students to create LinkedIn accounts that will assist them both in college and their future professional lives.  And of course the link will be our lasting bond hopefully long after the college days.

We want to create relationships that stand the test of time and conversations that can pick up right where they left off.  This way we won’t be measuring how many scholarships were awarded but how many lives were changed.

Watch for our announcement and list of 2016 scholarship recipients.  And, if you want in on being a change-maker, just give us a call because setting up scholarship funds is one of our favorite things to do.

 

 

Small but Powerful People 

Small but Powerful People 

I am the mother of two amazing little ones, a 7 year-old, compassionate, old-soul and a meticulous, thoughtful 5 year-old.  They have an incredible power to rapidly change me.  They can make me laugh, cry, play, act silly, worry, rethink everything, and every now and then raise my voice (despite my best efforts to remain level-headed). Mostly though, they amaze me with the way they think, the things they learn, and how they love.  These two are full of compassion, not just for each other, family and friends, but for all living things.  The coolest part about how they love is their desire to help and make things better.  They are small but powerful people.

For as long as I can remember the month of April has made me think about the earth, this planet that supports life of all kinds and provides essential resources.  I ponder the impact I make, good and bad, and commit to do more.  As a mother, my April reflections have expanded.  Now more than ever, I think about how we will leave this planet for our kids, the next generations who care so much and love so deeply.

This morning I asked them why they think Earth Day is important.  The youngest, hair in every direction and still in his jammies, rubbed his sleepy eyes and said, “It’s our planet, Mom.  I don’t want it to die.”  The other had to think about it.  After school, she announced that Earth Day reminds us that our planet allows us to “grow fruits and vegetables, provides places for animals to live, and we need to take care of it so it doesn’t turn into a garbage dump.”

In one spin around the sun, the earth endures so many changes.  Some of the changes are barely noticeable; others are dramatic, but most appear gradual in our busy lives until you look up and the result is suddenly right there in front of you. It can be overwhelming and seem insurmountable to each of us, individually.  What can one person do to make a positive impact on the earth?

When I ask these little ones what they think we can do to make the world a better place, they always turn to what they can do.  “I will pick up that litter.”  “I will recycle.”  “I will turn off the water while I brush my teeth.” “I will tell my friends we need to protect people and animals.”  They believe they can make a difference and expect others to do the same.  Their perspective is worth a deeper look.  If we all take action, big or small, we can make a difference in our little corner of the world.  Everyone doing their part adds up to real, positive impact around the globe.  Earth Day comes around just like our planet circling the sun to remind us of that.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we provide opportunities for those who love Southwest Florida to support and realize positive, regional change around their cause.  My cause is undoubtedly Southwest Florida’s environment – the earth. This April, the Foundation launched the Fund for the Environment and, to get it started, we’re crowdfunding for it.  That means that anyone can provide a donation, big or small, to be part of something bigger for the region and the planet, just in time for Earth Day.

Whether you decide to give or to do something that will help preserve our environment, please know that every action matters, and we can all start with one thing to make the next spin around the sun a better one for the earth and all its inhabitants, especially the littlest ones.

 

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 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.

 

Big Numbers

Big Numbers

When it comes to anniversaries and birthdays some numbers just seem to be bigger than others. Decade and half decade markers get the most attention and provide fantastic opportunities for recognition and celebration.

Over the last ten years I have enjoyed my share of parties to usher in someone’s 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays or wedding anniversaries marking a couple’s quarter century together. These are events worthy of celebration.

But one trend I have found particularly interesting is our desire to reframe these numbers. When I turned 40 everyone told me not to worry because 40 was the new 30. When I turned 50 those same encouraging souls explained that 50 was the new 40 and a friend of mine who just hit 60 explained that she was really just hitting what used to be considered 50.

On one hand this confuses me greatly because now I don’t actually understand how old we all are but I also realize that we view aging through a different lens than generations before us.

Society used to see increasing age as the ultimate wisdom, credibility and experience quotient. Our elders (notice the name) were revered and held in the highest esteem. I never remember my grandmother sitting down with me when she was in her 80’s offering loving advice and expressing she was actually the new 60. I admired her for the age she really achieved and understood she knew what she was talking about.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week. This big number provides us the opportunity to thank those who have helped guide us, support us and lead us over the last 40 years. We are extremely fortunate that our founders John Sheppard and Tom Smoot are still actively involved as Senior Advisors and that many of our donors who helped us pave the way to where we are today will be on hand to help us celebrate.

To mark the anniversary, we unwrapped an early gift from a new philanthropist to the foundation, Commercial Photographer Brian Tietz. Brian spent much of last year photographing nearly 100 people who represent philanthropy and the love of humanity in Southwest Florida. His one-man photo exhibit will be featured at our anniversary celebration. What Brian was willing to do for us captures the spirit of the last 40 years at the Foundation- individuals giving of themselves individually and collectively to create change. We will reflect on that history and moments like the way the Foundation assisted in Hurricane Charley relief efforts, the establishment of the Women’s Legacy Fund and the Fund for the Arts in Southwest Florida, and the achievement of all-time grants exceeding $63 million and assets growing to an all-time high of $93 million.

When organizations get older often there is a comfort that they are more established, on strong footing and have a greater depth and breadth of experience to call on. This is certainly the case with the Community Foundation.

But, I have to admit I was tempted to put “Join us in celebrating our 40th- the new 30th” on the anniversary invitation. Not because I wanted the Foundation to appear younger, but to signify that we are honoring the past but still pursuing new ideas, change and innovation with the exuberance of an up and coming organization. We are now hosting compassionate shark tanks, researching community needs and opportunities by talking to those most affected, offering donors 24-7 access to their funds via our website, working with millennial donors, and more.

Community Foundations are tasked with listening, learning and changing with a community. Our founders will be the first to tell you that our region is much different today than it was 40 years ago and today’s trustees know they are visioning and planning a course for the foundation for the next 40 years and beyond.

So as we take time out to mark what has gotten us to where we are today, we will also be looking ahead to the future.

And, by the way, Brian Tietz’s photo exhibit will be on display in the Foundation office, the Community Hub, from April 15 through the summer. It is a gift to our community that we hope to share with many. We would love to include you in all of our future celebrations. Please join us, it’s never too late — we are all just getting younger!

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 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.

Because you only turn 40 once!

Because you only turn 40 once!

Congratulations to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation board of trustees and senior advisors celebrating 40 years of philanthropy.  The anniversary events were kicked off tonight with the awarding of the John Sheppard Award to Jay Brett and Dawn Marie Driscoll in front of a packed Community Hub filled with trustees and senior advisor trustees, spouses and friends.  The “dynamic duo,” coined by Board Chairman Guy Whitesman, did not disappoint with heartfelt words of acceptance of a journey well taken as leaders, ….and followers.  We say a hearty THANK YOU.  Happy 40th Anniversary.  Here we go!

 

Jay Brett and Dawn-Marie Driscoll Recieve the John Sheppard AwardSarah Owen and Larry Hobbs MDMyra Walters and Aurora Badia MDJohn Sheppard, Bob daFrota, Bill FreyJoe Mazurkiewicz and Jay BrettGary Aubuchon and David LucasHugh Kinsey, Aurora Badia MD, Sydney RobertsTrustees before toastIMG_8938IMG_8937IMG_8936Cindy Banyai, Howard Leland, Ron PennCharles Idelson and Juan BendeckTom Smoot, Archie Hayward and Chauncey GossScott White, Robbie Roepstorff, Larry HobbsArchie Hayward, Carolyn ConantAmy Gravina and David Lucas