News-Press Causes Column

CAUSE & EFFECT: Are We There Yet?

CAUSE & EFFECT: Are We There Yet?

Today, for the first time, my youngest child will pull his car out of the garage and drive himself to school – without me in the car.

 

You would think I would be used to this nerve wracking rite of passage by the third offspring.  I did all the right things to try and prepare him but I am not ready.

 

He indulged me over the last few weeks with reminiscing about our decade and a half in the car together.   As a child he was a car seat escape artist, back of the seat kicker and had some special maneuver that would cause my seat belt to tighten fiercely at my neck.  There was also a constant refrain of “are we there yet?” from my back seat passenger.

 

No matter what I had done to prep him for where we were going, what to expect and how long it would take to get there, about 5 minutes into the trip he would launch into the cry of anticipation of arrival. As you can imagine he didn’t ask just once.

 

No matter our age, I think when we are certain of our destination we are anxious to get there.

 

As adults we spend time navigating our endpoints. With the help of GPS technology and navigation systems we can pinpoint our exact moment of arrival.   But some journeys in life and work are easier to reach than others, which can make estimating “getting there” a bit tougher.

 

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation our journey and mission is cultivating sustainable regional change for the common good.  We want to help donors and community advocates identify what creates a positive quality of life in Southwest Florida and then design a map that we can follow to get there together.

 

When it comes to serving our community I don’t think we can ever stop asking if we are there yet.  We should never stop considering if we have done all we can for transportation, water quality, education, health, poverty elimination and economic development.

 

A few weeks ago someone ask me “are we there yet?’ in creating a sustainable region.  My answer would have never satisfied my young son in the back seat, but quality of life is never a destination that is permanently reached.   We will always be driving toward it, and protecting and stewarding what it takes to create a vibrant region.  We can never stop getting there.

 

But it is important that we create the roadmap, benchmarks and measurements to ensure we are making progress.  At the foundation we like to say, “If we can’t measure it, we can’t move it.”

 

We apply this to everything we do because we want to continue to do and support the things that create progress and let things go that don’t move us in the right direction.  It’s like GPS for change.

 

Every year we support amazing non-profit organizations who are actively trying to “get our region there” through their work in economic, social and environmental causes.

 

Last year 18 local nonprofits (see the full list on our website) were awarded over a half a million dollars to fund new and existing programs to increase the quality of life in our communities.  But they didn’t just take a check and stop there.  The leaders met with us as a Tribe for a year to work together to track both their individual and collective progress.  Always asking “are we there yet?”

 

Some of their results include:

  • Of the funded reporting nonprofits, nearly 90 percent of the tribe programs demonstrated progress toward the changes desired in the region because of their program (the programs are getting us there and their data confirms it)
  • The increase in the amount of collaboration between Foundation-funded nonprofits is 650 percent resulting in 13 collaborative projects between the nonprofit grantees. Examples of these collaborations include Gulf Coast Symphony and the Heights Center’s MusicWorks! program for the after-school children along with Family Initiative and the Alliance for the Arts’ Art for Autism program. (they are finding ways to work together)
  • Foundation-funded nonprofits saw an increase from 22.5 to 28.9 percent in knowledge and ability in evaluation skills such as data collection, analysis and reporting. (they can measure their progress and report that back to you)

Check out a great video at the link below to learn more about the results of the work of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Tribes  at  http://floridacommunity.com/tribes/

 

 

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.

Cause & Effect:  What Happens in the Foundation Doesn’t Stay in the Foundation

Cause & Effect:  What Happens in the Foundation Doesn’t Stay in the Foundation

I just returned home from some summer travel.  My youngest child is 15 and I am all too aware that there are only a few summer breaks left that will provide me the opportunity to show him the world.  Soon enough he will be out exploring without me.

Travel is always a compelling way to gain a new perspective on everyday life.  This year I was struck by how many locations promised to keep stories of travelers adventures locked away in their city.  We are all familiar with the iconic, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  It seems that idea is so appealing that other destinations have adopted the mantra.  I can’t tell you how many small towns and establishments promised to keep whatever happened on my trip top secret.

As I pulled up to Yosemite National Park I half expected to see the sign altered to read, “What happens in Yosemite Stays in Yosemite”, but thank goodness the only signage was the standard, ‘Don’t feed the bears and Stay on the trails.”  I am guessing if we didn’t follow those rules then our secrets would remain in the wild.

All these promises of anonymity got me thinking about the thousands of travelers to our region.  Based on social media it seems that people can’t wait to share all their stories and adventures from paradise.

I am pleased to live in a place that we all want to talk about.

Then my thoughts turned to my work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  There is so much that goes on at the Foundation and none of it is designed to stay at the Foundation.

Decades ago philanthropy had the reputation of being reserved for the wealthiest residents, but fortunately the concept of a community foundation is grounded in the idea of a community trust that is accessible to everyone who desires to create positive change in their communities.

Gone are the days in which funds are exclusively opened through wealth advisors on behalf of their clients who want to remain anonymous.  Now philanthropy is fully embracing its origins of love of humanity and the opportunities to give through a community foundation are endless.  No minimums, no one size fits all giving and donors are open to sharing what they are doing to change the world.  Caring people, no matter their net worth have a vehicle to create change and they can do it on their own or collectively through a community foundation.

Just while I was away on a short adventure, the Southwest Community Foundation:

  • Opened an emergency disaster fund for a local employer headquartered here with employees experiencing a current disaster out of state
  • Continued to work with the United Way and the City of Fort Myers to distribute funds to the Club Blu victims
  • Met with our nonprofit grantee tribes to share ideas and learn more about evaluating the results of our work together
  • Designed the next round of Community Impact Grants which distributes funding to organizations based on donor intent and ideas
  • Hosted the FutureMakers Coalition regional action team meetings which brings stakeholders from across the region together to collectively work on transforming the SWFL workforce
  • Distributed funding from Donor Advised Funds which are just like charitable checkbooks that our donors use to make grants to ideas and organizations they care about
  • Met with two couples who are planning their estates and want to provide direction to the foundation on how to steward their funds to support their legacy
  • Opened a new fund to assist with affordable housing in the Dunbar community
  • Met with municipalities to design programs for underserved youth
  • Connected with scholarship students. Here is a note from one who sent this after arriving on her new campus:

These past couple of days, I have been giving God thanks for your life and for the existence of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation….The academics here are the best of the best and I cannot wait to start classes on Monday. I just want to say thank you so much……I owe a good portion of my success to you guys. Thank you for being the best. My heart will always be grateful to you. God bless you.  

Although all this work happened at the Foundation, none of it stayed at the Foundation.  It all went back out into our communities and I am so thankful none of it has to be a secret.

I think I see a new slogan emerging.

 

About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. 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. Founded in 1976, it 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.

 

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

 

 

 

Summer Playlists for Giving Back to the Community  

Summer Playlists for Giving Back to the Community  

 

Two summers ago I had the opportunity to wake up very early in the morning in New York City and make my way to one of the network morning shows summer concert series.  It is one of those moments when viewed on television makes you wonder what it would be like to be part of it in person.  Everyone always looks so energized and excited particularly for such a break of day happening.

Even though the band of the day was not on my iTunes playlist it was still fun to be part of the action down on the plaza and it just felt like summer.  The network handed out sunglasses and t-shirts and my teenage son was properly embarrassed by my dancing.   There is something about the sounds of summer as realized through music that is uplifting and memory evoking.

I can hear a song from my high school or college summer breaks and I am immediately transported back to days as a lifeguard or just hanging out with friends.

The network that hosted the summer concert series recently launched a poll that asked viewers to weigh in on their choice for the song that most represented Summer 2016.  The choices ran the gambit of current hits, throw backs from the 80’s and different genre of tunes.  The variety of choices to choose from reminded me that there is something for everyone to connect with both in music and opportunities to welcome in the summer season.

With this in mind I ask the team of change agents in our office to compile some summer lists of their own.  The first was their favorite tune to crank up when Southwest Florida temps rise and we all head for air condition and swimming pools.  If you would like to hear what we are listening to we created a link for you to access our playlist  bit.ly/SWFLplaylist

But in keeping with the work we do every day at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we also created a “Give Back playlist” which highlights opportunities to get involved and volunteer this summer.  Our team selected just a few of the organizations that offer solstice chances to give back.  This list is not exhaustive as there are scores of nonprofits offering summer camps for our kids, hunger fighting organizations that face the challenges of helping those experiencing food insecurity, and a variety of causes that lose their winter volunteers.  Our staff’s summer volunteer playlist:

  • Volunteer at Special Equestrians
  • Road Clean Up – pick up litter
  • Walk a Dog at the Humane Society
  • Help out at children’s tennis camps
  • Read to the blind at Lighthouse of SWFL
  • Deliver meals for shut in senior citizens at Meals on Wheels/CCMI
  • Swim to support a cause like Multiple Sclerosis

So crank up the tunes and head out to make a difference in our region this summer.  I would love to hear about your favorite summer song or volunteering experience at [email protected]

Who knows- We might add them to our playlists!

 

About 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 $93 million, the it 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.

 

CAUSE & EFFECT – We Have Liftoff!

CAUSE & EFFECT – We Have Liftoff!

I grew up in Central Florida, which provided me access to Mickey Mouse, beautiful lakes, fresh oranges on demand and space shuttles.

One of my favorite memories is going to Cape Canaveral for NASA rocket and shuttle launches. I was always amazed that I could witness in person what others could only experience through a media outlet.

Being at the Cape meant you not only saw the launch- you also felt it in every fiber of your body. Of course I didn’t make it to every shuttle launch but the next best thing was watching the countdown on television and hearing the words “we have liftoff” from mission control and then running out the front door and gazing up to see the wonder of the rockets in the sky above.

But nothing beat the rumbling that could be felt on site. It just signaled that something really big was about to happen and it gave you the chance to prepare.
The ground would literally shake under my feet just before the space vessels cleared the launch pad with the greatest force I had ever experienced. I always wished I could grab on to the rocket and go along for the ride.

Over the last year at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation I feel as if the ground beneath our feet has been rumbling. No, the Foundation is not hatching a space program but we have been launching or serving as the backbone organization for a number of regional initiatives. One such movement is the FutureMakers Coalition.

Just like any big project there is a great deal of process, preparation and hard work before you ever get to the launching pad. A year ago we invited community partners who had been working alongside us to the kick off rally for the FutureMakers Coalition, a regional effort to transform the Southwest Florida workforce through increasing the number of working age adults with high quality certifications and degrees from 27% to 40% by 2025. In simpler terms we are working together to help Southwest Floridians get ready for college, get in college, get done with college and get connected with a career. Remember college includes our technical institutions as well. At the rally we were rolling this idea out to the launch pad and announcing the strategies that would ignite the engines.

The last 12 months have welcomed over 161 partners to the FutureMakers Coalition who have worked tirelessly to ready us for the next frontier of the initiative- working together across county lines to reach our goal. This commitment to work collectively instead of in silos seemed to intensify the rumbling and we all knew something big was happening.

Together the FutureMakers Coalition made up of partners from education, business, government and philanthropy in five counties has:

– Gathered students from all five counties for a student summit to provide guiding input to the Coalition on what barriers and opportunities exist in obtaining high quality certifications and degrees.

-Partnered with Career Source of Southwest Florida, Lee Memorial Health System, local technical colleges and scholarship donors to create a training and education pipeline to fill an immediate workforce demand that is creating a pathway out of poverty for participants.

-Identified the tracking and benchmarking that will let us know if we are making progress toward our 40% goal- remember the goal represents a strong workforce and careers for our residents and we must know if we are making a difference.

-Examined local scholarship opportunities and put processes in place to track what happens to students who receive funding- are they graduating and moving on to careers?

-Tailored the work of the Coalition to assist in starting, retaining and expanding a significant engine of our regional economy: small businesses

-Enhanced mentoring programs across the region with significant progress in previously underserved communities

-Rapid cycle testing the activities that are already working so we can replicate and scale- we understand that there is no reason to reinvent the wheel or start new programs

– Connected our local partners to national resources for support and expertise through our cohort relationship with Lumina Foundation

-Learned the perception of technical colleges is changing and we are harnessing that momentum to point people to rewarding careers in Southwest Florida

And, we just completed setting regional outcomes that will guide our work together. We are all heading in the same direction while maintaining what works best in each county and program.

In other words we have lift-off.

But there are many more launches in our future, I am already starting to feel the rumbling again. Please visit futuremakerscoalition.com and be part of the journey.

About the SWFL Community Foundation – Celebrating 40 Years of Philanthropy
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.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Most everyone enjoys a beautiful love story.  Whether it’s a best selling romance novel or watching an unexpected marriage proposal in a public venue we seem to be inspired by love.

Recently a friend’s son was planning to pop the question and I couldn’t get enough of the details.  I even had her text me photos from a photographer they had stationed nearby so I could see the moment he dropped to his knee in a beautiful sculpture garden.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the engagement scene lately you might be surprised to learn that proposals have become major productions that can include song and dance numbers, elaborate venues and photographers on hand to capture the whole affair.

We like to celebrate love and share it with others.   That’s the thing about love- it is primarily a “we” kind of experience. Love is experienced with other people.  Our first love is with our parents and family and then we expand to friends and significant others.  We have an inner circle of love relationships.   But what does it look like when we broaden our scope and love our neighbors- even those we have never met?  What does that kind of love look like?

The challenge is love by nature should be unconditional and that can limit how many people we can afford that commitment.  We have all experienced the moments when love becomes more difficult.  When a relationship is struggling, a child is challenging or a friendship becomes strained.   The idea of loving people we don’t know can seem overwhelming.

In the world of philanthropy we talk a lot about the love of giving but maybe not as much about the giving of love.  Interestingly the word philanthropy means love of humanity.  So how can we express this kind of love effectively?

In a piece published last Valentine’s Day  in the Chronicle of Philanthropy made the case that “philanthropy must lead with its heart.” Jennifer and Peter Buffett, who lead the NoVo Foundation, wrote:

As humanity progresses through time, our narcissistic tendencies may be getting the best of us. It’s imperative that we see ourselves in a loving relationship to each other and our planet if we are going to survive—collectively and quite possibly individually.

Over the last decade there has been a focus by donors on evaluation and results driven giving.  Philanthropists and funders began to question if love for humanity and causes was enough to make things better and wondered if their gifts were really making a difference.

More and more trainings and books began to emerge focused on running a nonprofit like a business with emphasis placed on return on investments.  In and of itself this is not a bad thing.  Now the field has a much better idea of how to measure and track results and can design solutions that lead to sustainable change.  But just like any shift we make in a field or industry we must make sure we don’t let the pendulum swing too far in one direction.  In other words continue to “love to give” effectively but don’t lose site of “give to love” from an emotional perspective.  The role of empathy, compassion and heartfelt connection must be part of the equation.

Just recently at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we launched a conversation around customizing your giving.  The idea is that we want giving time and finances to be your favorite thing to do and we want to help you find what works best to meet those goals.    We understand that philanthropy and community involvement is no longer a one-size fits all proposition.  In a recent column I talked about having things “your way” when it comes to giving.  In today’s society we have grown accustomed to customization.

The goal of a customized plan around giving is not to encourage isolation, or narcissism which would move you further away from the “we” part of love, but instead to connect with you on what first inspired your love for others or the community and how to best design a plan to make that happen.

When we talk about giving, money is the last piece of the conversation.

First we talk about what you love and value.  Then we discuss what impact you want to make on those things and finally how you would like to customize your gift and measure the results.

Those components working in concert with each other are what create the most beautiful and enduring love stories for our community.

If you want to talk about your love of community, please contact me at [email protected] I’d love to talk to you.

 

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 $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. Want to be part? It all starts with a conversation. Please call (239) 274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

 

 

FutureMakers and WorkForce Now to merge – News-Press Media Group initiative to join forces with regional coalition to transform the workforce by increasing Southwest Florida’s higher education completion to 40 percent by 2025

FutureMakers and WorkForce Now to merge – News-Press Media Group initiative to join forces with regional coalition to transform the workforce by increasing Southwest Florida’s higher education completion to 40 percent by 2025

Michael Jung, president and publisher of the News-Press Media Group announced today that WorkForce Now, an initiative created as a result of the Education Summits produced by his organization, would join the FutureMakers Coalition.

WorkForce Now is a five-county regional research initiative conducted by Florida SouthWestern State College, Florida Gulf Coast University and Hodges University to provide in-kind support and information on regional workforce gaps, skills and characteristics to both educators and the public. Each of these educational institutions is also a part of the FutureMakers Coalition.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications to 40 percent by the year 2025.

“It just makes sense that these two be aligned because the in-kind support WorkForce Now is providing also supports the goal of the FutureMakers Coalition and the various stakeholders across the region,” said Jung. “Increasing our higher-education completion will also increase the skills of our workforce to meet the growing needs of our community.”
WorkForce Now was established in 2013 following the News-Press’s Education Summit in order to start identifying the depth of our local workforce.
Dr. John Meyer, dean of the School of Business and Technology at Florida SouthWestern State College, is an active researcher and author on the WorkForce Now project.

“The quality of our regional workforce is a primary competitive factor in our growth and economic development,” Dr. Meyer said. “We have developed groundbreaking research, and it has been successful in our region and at FSW.”

WorkForce Now deeply studies industries or sectors each year to provide a continuous stream of information from employers to educational institutions, and looks for ways to create dialogue and new partnerships between businesses and educational institutions. To date, WorkForce Now has produced six research papers with findings used in additional WorkForce Now summits. The research includes findings on regional workforce needs, job and employer needs, and education systems.
Under the new arrangement, the FutureMakers Coalition will partner with WorkForce Now as a part of the initiative by providing administrative support, and help to collect data and guide additional research.

“The beauty of this ‘merger’ is that this is work that was already happening, and it’s now being aligned with a larger regional initiative,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “The FutureMakers Coalition’s focus is to align all of the work that’s being done by other organizations and partners in the ‘cradle-to-career’ system at a regional level, and the results of these collaborations will enhance the region’s educational and economic success.”

The FutureMakers Coalition was born out of a two-year regional initiative focused on increasing the number of high-school seniors in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Responding to the Florida College Access Network’s 2012 report that more than $100 million in Pell Grants went unclaimed by Florida students, the initial effort involved a team of more than a dozen stakeholders who invested in high-school seniors through one-on-one and group mentoring, FAFSA workshops and support, and career coaching.

Within a year and with the recommendation of FCAN and Helios, the work of the inaugural FutureMakers program was recognized by Lumina Foundation, an independent private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. The FutureMakers Coalition benefits from Lumina’s collaborative approach that connects Southwest Florida to renowned national thought-leadership organizations and provides technical and planning assistance, data tools and flexible funding as attainment plans are customized.

About FutureMakers Coalition
The FutureMakers Coalition is working to increase post-secondary certification completion in Southwest Florida and promote the knowledge and skills needed for success in the workplace and in life. Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the Coalition’s goal is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications from 27 percent to 40 percent by 2025 throughout Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

As one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment, the FutureMakers Coalition is a regional partnership involving education, government, business, nonprofit and citizen stakeholders, and advocates committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition’s collective effort encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. They are looking for partners from all sectors to invest resources, including time, expertise, funding and more. For more information, visit www.FutureMakersCoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

There is only one qualification for appearing on a Wheaties cereal box: Champion. You might be a world famous actor, politician or rock star but you are not going to show up on grocery store shelves touting the Breakfast of Champions.

Ever since Wheaties featured baseball icon Lou Gehrig on their product in 1934 hundreds of champions from the world of sports have made their mark on the iconic cereal box. Basketball legend Michael Jordon who was featured on the Wheaties box 18 times reminded us of the value of the breakfast of champions with his “You better eat your Wheaties” campaign.

In sports a champion is defined as a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition and is synonymous with prizewinner, victor, number one and king.

As a kid I didn’t actually like Wheaties nor was I particularly gifted in sports, but I did have a sense that being a champion was desirous, so I ate them. It never improved my abilities on the playing field but I did feel as if I was part of something special.

A few weeks ago, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosted a Breakfast of Champions. No, we were not able to secure Arnold Palmer, Wayne Gretzky or Mary Lou Retton but we were able to gather a number of our region’s champions around a breakfast table to discuss working collectively on a coalition to make our community stronger.

We invited Southwest Florida leaders from the world of education, business, economic development, and government to breakfast in order to learn more about the FutureMakers Coalition and invite them to become champions of a different sort.

You see in more general terms a champion is a person who fights or advocates for a cause on behalf of someone else and can also be known as a crusader, booster or campaigner.

The FutureMakers Coalition’s goal is to transform the workforce in Southwest Florida by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications from 27 to 40 percent by 2025.

This translates into more opportunity for the residents of Southwest Florida, which means a stronger region and quality of life for us all.

This is work worthy of championing. But this effort can’t rely on a single institution or entity. No one group can take up the role of champion. Success on this field takes a team effort based on focusing on the collective impact we can create by working toward the same goal.

As one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment, the FutureMakers Coalition is a regional partnership committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners.

At the breakfast (yes we actually had the bright orange boxes on hand) we learned from Lumina Foundation coaches about the qualities and systems needed to form a successful coalition and what our roles are in championing this effort individually, organizationally and collectively.

Since the breakfast, the guests have been stepping up in the roles they selflessly agreed to take on for the FutureMakers Coalition. Placing partnership decals at their workplace, rallying support in their circles of influence, encouraging their team members to become active participants in the FutureMakers Coalition regional and county action teams and providing funding. Just like true champions- doing whatever it takes to create this collective win for our region.

If you would like to learn more or get involved in the FutureMakers Coalition visit FutureMakersCoalition.com and sign the wall. We have a big goal to reach and much work ahead – we better eat our Wheaties.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation to host Art, Community & Conversation – “The Visual Voice” reception and exhibit

Southwest Florida Community Foundation to host Art, Community & Conversation – “The Visual Voice” reception and exhibit

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Aug. 31, 2015) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation will host a reception to kick off its Art, Community & Conversation “The Visual Voice” exhibit featuring a photojournalistic view of the Southwest Florida community by award-winning photographers of The News-Press.

The reception will take place Thursday, Sept. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Community Foundation’s Community Hub, located at 8771 College Pkwy, Suite 201, Building 2 in Fort Myers. Reservations are requested by Sept. 10 by contacting Kim Williams [email protected] 239-274-5900.

Attendees may meet the photographers and listen to their experiences photographing events and happenings in the community that often puts a spotlight on social justice issues in our own backyard.

News-Press photographers exhibiting their work and participating in the reception include Andrew West, Kinfay Moroti, Jack Hardman, Ric Rolon, Sarah Coward and Amanda Inscore.

The exhibit is sponsored by Palm Printing Strategic Solutions.

The exhibit will be on display from Sept. 17 through Oct. 23 and be available for public viewing Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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 $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 $551,000 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. 

 

Wanderlust Southwest Florida Style

Wanderlust Southwest Florida Style

It has been said that all who wander are not lost, but recently I have discovered all who wander do not even need to leave Southwest Florida.  There is quite a lot of great wandering to be done right here in our own region.

Summertime is ripe for all kinds of staycations.  Actually as I write this column I am tucked away for the day in an undisclosed Southwest Florida location with an out of office message greeting anyone emailing and looking for me.

Just a few weeks ago, a close friend who was wandering (and not lost) made her way across the state for a visit.  She came for the sole purpose of reconnecting and catching up.  Other than a few quick phone calls on the way to meetings we had not been doing a great job staying in touch.  She is one of those friends that knows everything about me and likes me anyway so I was looking forward to a weekend staycation with her.

Once she arrived and we got settled in for the kind of winding conversations that are the hallmark of longstanding friendships, she asked the normal questions about my kids, my marriage, and life in general and seemed more interested than usual in what was happening at work.

I shared both the joys and struggles of my personal life with great ease but I noticed that when it came to talking about my work at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation I would quickly change the subject.  I would ask about her work or another topic we needed to cover.

For those of you that know me or read this column regularly, you know normally you cannot get to me STOP talking about the team and donors at the Foundation.  It is my number one cocktail party conversation.  My husband will tell you that he would enjoy me delving into other topics every once in a while.  So this question dodging with my friend caught me a little off guard.  I gave her some general answers about the needs in the region, our work on post secondary attainment, launching a new sustainability plan and our desire to stoke the fires of strategic philanthropy in Southwest Florida.

I could tell that she was interested but it was not what she was really asking.  She was my friend and she wanted to know the impact the work was having on me personally. Why couldn’t I give her an authentic answer?

The last night of her trip before her wandering took her elsewhere and my short staycation was over, she suggested we drive out to Captiva.  She lived in Southwest Florida years ago and had fond memories of the Islands.

It looked like it was going to storm and I was already thinking about everything I had to the next day and I made a weak attempt to wave off the idea.  But she persisted and we headed out through a light drizzle.

She just happened to have two chairs and a golf umbrella in the back of her car and we set up right by a jetty of rocks and the Gulf’s edge.

Just about the time I was going to say I couldn’t believe we were sitting at the beach in the rain an orchestra of paradise began to play.

As if on cue dolphins danced and played in the water right in front of us, pelicans dove for their evening meals, and fiddler crabs scurried right over my feet.  The rain stopped.  The clouds broke open to reveal a double rainbow and one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

I looked at my friend and suddenly was ready to tell her all about why I was working at the Foundation.  I told her that this place, this region, mattered to me and I wanted to make sure that I supported all the efforts and passions of all the other people that it mattered to as well.

She said, “ You don’t need to say another word” and she took my picture so I would never forget.

I would like to hear what you love about Southwest Florida.  Please reach out to me somewhere over the rainbow at [email protected].

 

 

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.

 

Renew Your Subscription for the Future

Renew Your Subscription for the Future

A couple of years ago, I was the proud owner of some orphaned reward points on a credit card I rarely used. I wanted to cash them in for the espresso machine but came up short by a few million purchases. For that matter, I came up short for most everything except the offer on magazine subscriptions.

In an effort to make the most of my languishing points, I decided I would order subscriptions on a wide variety of topics, including health, economics, current events and world travel. I had once read somewhere if you read at least 10 books on a single topic you are considered an expert. These subscriptions seemed to be a gateway to a world of expertise on many topics. I spent all my points, canceled the credit card and waited for the digital or glossy print magazines to arrive.

They arrived, and arrived and arrived. I stacked, filed and stacked. I knew there would be a long weekend or an evening curled up on the couch somewhere in my future in which I could catch up on the Middle East, cooking healthy meals and the latest on technology in education.

The only thing that came faster and with more intention than the magazines themselves were the renewal notices. My points had not provided me with more than 3 to 12 month access to this new world so as soon as the publications arrived so did the onslaught of reminders to renew.

Each request reminded me of what I would be missing, and as the time for expiration grew closer the pleas grew more intense. “Don’t be left behind”, “Don’t be out of touch,“. The best is yet to come”, and “FINAL NOTICE” greeted me on a daily basis.

A couple of the magazines that enhanced my desire to be a lifelong learner have remained on my list and in my mailbox and inbox while others I let fall away. There was no way I could afford to keep up all the subscriptions and they did not all suit my needs or interest. But it was nice to know that I could renew something I had started. I had many options at my disposal.

Over the last several years, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been collaborating with a group of regional partners, the FutureMakers Coalition, around increasing the number of our residents who have college degrees or other industry recognized credentials. This work benefits the individuals who live here but also contribute to a healthy vibrant region.

One of the biggest roadblocks to completions of degrees or certifications is persistence – the person’s ability to stick with the programs. We are used to the concept of school or training programs having a beginning, middle and end and if we get off track our instinct is to think we somehow blew it.

Much like my credit card points, we start on an educational journey with some kind of one-time offer. A one year scholarship, an 18-month program that runs consecutively, coursework that is offered once every two years. We get off to a great start with fantastic intentions but then find ourselves without the resources to continue.

Maybe our work schedule changed, financial aid ran out, the scholarship didn’t continue, our families needed us at home, or we were not ready for life away at college.

Most of the renewal notices we receive when this happens come in the form of tuition bills or the risk of being dropped from a program.

What if we began to view our education as a subscription that was up for renewal?   What if each year we evaluated which options best suited where we were headed? Could we add a certification, consider an internship, start a graduate degree or take an online course that would enhance our career path? As employers, could we help our teams evaluate how they can enhance their skill sets and connect them with resources that make that possible? There seem to be as many options as magazine subscriptions.

At the Foundation, we are working closely with donors designing scholarships. Rather than focusing on one-size-fits-all scholarships for high school seniors, the options are endless. Flexible plans that allow students to move from certifications to two-year and on to four-year institutions, financial assistance for adult and returning students, career enhancement and laddering credentials and most importantly scholarships that allow the students to renew rather than a one-time award. These are subscriptions that are worth our investments.

Would you like to lend your support to the FutureMakers Coalition? If so, please contact me at [email protected].

 

photo image from wxxinews.org