Florida Weekly Column

Pause and Reflect to Imagine New Paths

Pause and Reflect to Imagine New Paths

I think one of the greatest technological advancements in my lifetime is the pause feature on machines of all sorts and electronic devices.

Whether it is the ability to throw one or two more items into a wash load or dishwasher at the last minute or my all-time favorite of stopping a television show or sporting event mid action and then coming back to it (sometimes in a totally different room) when I am ready- the thrill has never worn off.

Growing up the closest thing that came to the pause feature was a game of freeze tag in the back yard, but now nearly everything can be stopped and restarted.  We are used to a fast-paced life that requires an occasional break in the action, mainly to multi-task and then come back to our original focus.  Pausing devices allows us to do more, faster.

When it comes to this non-human pausing everything stops frozen in time.  And as cool as I find this feature I have recently discovered human pausing is where the real magic lies.  This type of pause slows us down and allows us to reflect.

Recently I came across a quote from Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, which advises global businesses on ethics and leadership.  In Thomas L. Friedman’s new book Thank You for Being Late, Seidman shares, “When you press a pause button on a machine it stops, but when you press the pause button on human beings they start.  You start to reflect, you start to rethink your assumptions, you start to reimagine what is possible, and most importantly you start to reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs.  Once you have done that, you can begin to imagine a better path.”

But he doesn’t leave it there, he stresses “what matters most is what you do in the pause.”

This concept is the basis of Friedman’s book and he shares a compelling story of taking a pause to connect with a parking attendant, when all he really wanted to do was get on with his day.  That pause launched a relationship that was beneficial to both and without the pause he would have missed meeting an Ethiopian blogger who was trying to change the world.  This encounter led him to bigger questions that shaped his book.

When we work with individual and corporate donors on their charitable and philanthropic strategies we urge them to pause and reflect.  Many of them have been giving to the same organizations and causes for many years but have not stopped to consider how they can best impact their favorite nonprofits.

Recently we heard from a donor who was attending a community event and paused to speak with a couple they had never met who had recently started a nonprofit organization.

The donor reached out to us to contribute to the organization from the donor’s fund at the foundation the next week.  He said he would have never learned of the nonprofit’s work if he hadn’t made the point to meet the couple and start up an unexpected conversation.

Some of the best ideas come when end-users, donors and nonprofit leaders come together to pause and reflect on what the next best step is for their partnership.

Taking the time to step away, or slow down can seem counter intuitive in today’s fast paced world, but making the most of a pause can send us on a better path.

If you are looking for a pause moment to consider your values and interests in charitable giving, I would love to hear from you and help you make the most of a pause.  Reach out at [email protected]

 

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: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

CAUSE & EFFECT: Pushing the Tube Up the Mountain Together

If people watching were an official sport, I am fairly certain I could be a contender for the Olympic team or championship game.

Wherever I go I look for opportunities to observe people and their behaviors.  I often say I am listening, but many times I am watching to see what I can learn about others.

Most recently my people watching training took me out of state to a land full of mountains and snow.

One of my favorite people watching moments in these wintery conditions is taking in a couple hours of snow-tubing.  This entails tubers of all ages pushing an inflated rubber tube up a snowy hill to the top and then riding it full speed to the bottom.

Pushing the tube up the mountain is nothing short of a monumental task. Your feet slip, it’s cold, and a tube big enough to ride is just awkward to maneuver.

Kids are the best to watch because the tube is about twice their size, but they are relentless in getting that chariot up the slope because they know the joy of the exhilarating ride to the bottom.

In an afternoon of tubing, the riders will repeat this ritual over and over. But I have noticed some people are more willing to push the tube up the hill than others.

It seems to be some sort of return on investment proposition based on the satisfaction of the ride down.  In my casual observations tenacity is increased when others are there to help or share in the journey.  Groups tubing together will help fellow travelers when the tube gets too cumbersome, and in some cases they will work together to get one tube up the hill and then ride down together.

In every case, the journey is never easy.

A few weeks ago when I was feeling a bit discouraged about a tough journey of my own and was worried about keeping our Southwest Florida Community Foundation team engaged and energized a colleague shared a story she sometimes conveys to her team.

This woman is a trailblazer who I admire and she has successfully launched several community projects that many thought impossible, so I knew she had some sage advice.

Interestingly it also involved a snow laden scenario.  Not of pushing a tube up a hill, but instead a snowball.  She says she often thinks of her projects and community movements as snowballs that are being pushed up a mountain.  At the beginning many people will gather around to help push but when things get tough some fall away.  She keeps her team and volunteers motivated by painting the picture of what will happen once they reach the top of the mountain.

Whatever size snowball they have could roll to the summit; the minute they push it over the other side of the mountain it will gain momentum.  It will pick up speed, size and people who want to be involved.   But none of that happens without finding a way to get to the top with the people who are willing to go with you.

Over the last few months I have read, watched and been inspired by the profiles of the News Press People of the Year nominees and recipients.  These are fellow residents who have accomplished amazing things over the past year.  As my friend shared her story I realized that everyone featured had pushed their own proverbial snowballs up some pretty steep mountains.

Overcoming health issues, human trafficking, business challenges, being under the microscope of the public eye, or finding their way as a next generation leader.  Each story has both its snowball up the mountain and down the mountain moment (You can still find the stories by clicking here).

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we also have the great honor and privilege of supporting nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions in our region.  I see these teams working hard to tackle issues facing the environment, poverty, education, animals, the arts, health and safety, and community development.  They work hard but they need the support of our region.   Just like the tubers who ride in groups, the journey up hill is always better when taken together.

So what snowball or tube are you trying to push up the hill?  Or who could you help up the mountain?  Whichever it is, remember the ride down is worth it and as a semi-pro people (and their causes) watcher, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Love Notes

Community Love Notes

Last week I was driving down College Parkway in Fort Myers and noticed a car stalled out in a turn lane.  A moment later people were racing across the road from a nearby convenience store, pulling over their cars and jumping out to help the young driver push the car to a gas station parking lot.  There were so many people helping I think they could have picked the car up and carried it away.

Others were friendly honking and cheering them on, and I smiled and proclaimed out loud to no one, “I love this place.”  It is encouraging and inspiring to see people come together to help their fellow man.

I was feeling particularly positive since this chance siting happened to fall on Valentine’s Day and I had spent the morning meeting with our team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect holiday to consider and celebrate philanthropy.  At its core philanthropy means ‘love of humanity.’  Our team was reflecting on the work we see so many of our donors and nonprofits advancing in our region.  Acts of generosity and compassion that are fueled by love.

Our team also recognizes that there are challenges and opportunities facing our region that philanthropy has the potential to impact. But in the spirit of community and Valentine’s Day I asked them to consider and share what they loved about Southwest Florida, their work in the region and the generosity they see in others.

Throughout the day they took a few minutes and captured their thoughts on a white board as a love note to the community and I wanted to share some of them with you.

  • I love the environment
  • I love helping people
  • I love our new LGBT fund and the founding donors
  • I love the hearts and passion of our nonprofit leaders and their teams
  • I love the beaches
  • I love the FutureMakers Coalition
  • I love our donors and fundholders
  • I love that we receive gifts from all over the world (first gift from Germany!)
  • I love the plan for our new Technology Hub in downtown Fort Myers
  • I love the sunshine
  • I love our Women’s Legacy Fund Prima Donors and contributors
  • I love SWFL’s diversity
  • I love impacting lives
  • I love our (volunteer) board of trustees
  • I love our amazing team

That’s some of our list and we have decided to keep it up for a while.  It would be wonderful to add your words to our board and our love note. What do you love about Southwest Florida?   Reach out to me at [email protected], or post it on our Facebook page @SWFLCF or our Twitter page @SWFLCFnd.

 

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:  It’s All Gone.

Cause & Effect: It’s All Gone.

It’s all gone.  That was the message delivered by my friend who emailed to let me know that the home shared by multi- generations of her family had been lost to a devastating fire.

This news was heartbreaking, and what made it worse is it followed on the heels of other tough health and personal challenges she had faced with courage.   It all just seemed too much.  I was thinking, “enough already!”

My friend lives in another part of the country so we stay in touch via email and text, but I struggle to find the right words for her.  I knew that as result of the fire the family had lost some valuable legacy establishing artifacts created by her father who had passed away a number of years ago.

The family had been busy working to curate and memorialize his work so that it could be shared with the world in perpetuity — a painstaking task.   I had learned from another colleague who is overseeing her late husband’s collection of artwork that this kind of responsibility carries the weight of the world.

Honoring and protecting legacy while grieving is difficult.

I knew I wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect with my friend in person, so I planned a video Skype call just to check in and make sure that I could see her face to gauge how she was holding up.  She is really skilled at sounding strong over the phone.

This news happened to correspond with a trip I was making to Philadelphia, and I couldn’t help but think that if after spending some time in the City of Brotherly Love I would somehow be inspired to share words of love and comfort with my hurting friend.  I had even thought of texting a photo of the famous LOVE sign in JFK park to let her know her family was on my mind.  Again, just the right words escaped me.

My original plan for this month’s Cause & Effect column was to share insights on the concept of brotherly love, which I had researched as part of my trip, and how it pertained to philanthropists and local nonprofits who shower love on our region every day.

But my plans changed when I Skyped with my friend. Surprisingly enough, I discovered it was she comforting me with the lessons learned from the fire and how it related to legacy and love.

With tragedy comes reflection and she was quick to share that the loss of the home and material possessions particularly those with financial and legacy implications had helped her focus on the true meaning of what matters after we are gone.

She made special note of the gratitude she felt that her loved ones escaped the fire and talked about the tedious and messy work of trying to sort through the remains at the site of the blaze, standing ankle deep in wet ash.

At one point the firefighters helping with the recovery of items from the home, opened a drawer of a nearly burned out dresser to find a single photo encased unharmed in an acrylic frame.

The photo was of she and her husband and their two kids and she said in that moment she knew that was the legacy of her father and that home.   Not just the continuation of the family but what they give of themselves and their work in this world which includes their faith, and service to the local and global community.

Because she lived in our part of the world for several years she made a point to mention the work that happens through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and more specifically the nonprofits and donors we have the honor and privilege of working alongside every day.

She said the fire taught her that legacy developed by helping our fellow man, our environment and our communities lasts forever, because love endures all even when belongings and heirlooms do not.

So in a hotel room in the City of Brotherly Love, on a Skype call with my friend in the Midwest, who had returned from sorting out a family tragedy in the Northeast I learned a lesson about creating and sustaining love and legacy in our backyard.

A special thank you to all the nonprofits and the incredible people who support them, work in and with them for creating a legacy in Southwest Florida that can never be destroyed.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Shelf

An Open Shelf

The first home my husband and I bought together was a 1920s bungalow just a couple blocks off Daytona Beach.

It had hardwood floors hidden under carpet and many other quaint features that were covered with layers of paint, wallpaper and drywall.  A few years of our lives were spent uncovering the treasures of this house.

The first time we looked at our future home with a real estate agent we noticed the living room built ins were filled with keepsakes you wouldn’t normally find displayed in that setting.  A well-worn baseball cap, stacks of folded paper grocery bags and an assortment of fly swatters.  They weren’t thrown haphazardly on the shelves but were arranged as a display that seemed to hold meaning.

Long after we moved in and had filled the shelves with our own brand of memorabilia we would wonder out loud about the meaning of the eclectic tokens of the previous owners.

We created stories about the items and imagined how they made their way to a place of honor on the main room shelves.

When is the last time you took inventory of the things displayed on bookcases, mantels or shelves in your home or office? For the most part we reserve those places for things that hold memories, special meaning or inspiration.

Recently my son cleaned off some shelves in his bedroom that were filled with youth sports trophies, various certificates, collectibles and souvenirs from family vacations.

When I noticed the cleared out space I asked him what was up with the redecorating.  I knew a number of the things packed away had meant something to him over the years.

His answer was short and to the point.  “I am just making room for what is coming next,” he said.

I turned around, closed his door and went to find a few shelves of my own to clear.

The team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has recently been refreshing and sharpening our strategy on how to support donors, stakeholders and our nonprofit partners in cultivating change in our region.  Although we have 40 years of experience in philanthropy and change making, we realize that we always have to make room for what is coming next.  The next community need or opportunity and the next donor with their own unique story and vision for giving.

Many of our proverbial shelves will be filled in perpetuity with the generous keepsakes of those who came before and established funds to care for the community.

But we will always keep an open shelf, an open door and an open mind to what comes next.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your Treadmills

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your Treadmills

I went to a new gym last week.  I realize lots of people went back to gyms over the past few weeks as part of a blurry eyed pact they made with themselves on New Year’s Eve, but my visit was different.

I don’t spend much time in gyms, I am more of a yoga studio, paddleboard, walk on the beach or through the Six Mile Slough type.  But on one of the coldest days of the year in Southwest Florida I shed my boots for a pair of tennis shoes and joined the Healthy Lee Coalition to launch their 2017 Million Mile Movement at Around the Clock Fitness in Fort Myers.

The Million Mile Movement is an initiative of Healthy Lee designed to inspire healthy lifestyle choices by challenging the residents of Lee County to collectively move 1,000,000 miles by March 31, 2017.  Moving doesn’t mean just walking.  Biking, rowing, swimming are all ways of logging those sought after miles.

So it was only fitting that companies and individuals gathered at a fitness center to set their goals to help get Lee County to that million-mile mark.

By the end of the launch, major sponsors were already on treadmills clocking in the first of many miles to come. I woke up the next morning wondering if they were still there chasing the promised miles by their companies.  There seemed to be some healthy competition brewing between school systems and municipalities which always makes for a fun challenge.

Outside of all the health benefits I am inspired to see the community coming together to support a common goal.  The idea of teams or individuals designing a strategy unique to them while still keeping the overall mission in sight is a cornerstone of creating change together.

No one person or organization has the ability to achieve large scale goals on their own.  Healthy Lee has already proven that working together can improve health outcomes for Lee County.  The Million Mile Movement allows residents from all over the county to come together and accomplish something that is good for them personally and for our community.

So, no matter if going to the gym made your 2017 resolution list or not, join the movement at HealthyLee.com or (http://healthylee.com/news-events/million-mile-movement/) and help Lee County reach a million miles. If you are looking to join a team the Southwest Florida Community Foundation welcomes you to join us [email protected] Florida Community Foundation.   It will be good for all of us. See you in sneakers!

 

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. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, the foundation has invested $5 million this year 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.

 

Southwest Florida Community Foundation announces $10 million New Markets Tax Credit project

Southwest Florida Community Foundation announces $10 million New Markets Tax Credit project

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2017) – The Southwest Florida Community Foundation recently closed on a $10 million New Markets Tax Credit deal to be used to restore the historic Atlantic Coast Line railroad station and build a technology hub and headquarters in the Midtown historic neighborhood of Fort Myers.

The New Markets Tax Credit, or NMTC, program encourages economic development in distressed neighborhoods.

As part of the public-private partnership with the City of Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation will sign a long-term lease with the city to move its regional headquarters to the train depot on Jackson Street. The building will be restored, and the Foundation plans to construct a 10,000-square-foot LEED Gold addition to create a campus that includes the Foundation offices and state-of-the-art shared space for the community and tenants.

Florida Community Loan Fund provided the $10 million in the NMTC allocation, and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation is an investor on the project. Whitney Hancock Bank provided additional financing.

According to Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the innovative thinking around community investments that created this opportunity will result in a gathering place for philanthropy and nonprofits in the heart of midtown Fort Myers, featuring vibrant spaces for work, gatherings and special events. In addition, plans include state-of-the-art broadband access.

“We are extremely excited about this project, public/private partnership with the City and the possibilities this brings for the midtown neighborhood,” said Owen. “We like to call this a ‘collaboration accelerator’ that is powered by technology, funding and good ideas to create change in our region. It’s old historic rail meeting new innovative rail.”

The center, along with the Internet network, will be a resource for regional nonprofit organizations, local businesses and schools.

“This is a fantastic project because it gives U.S. Bank the opportunity to support the restoration of an important historical building, spark new economic development in a growing region and partner with a visionary non-profit,” said Jennifer Westerbeck, vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a division of U.S. Bank.

The City’s Midtown redevelopment plan covers the areas south of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, north of Edison Avenue, east of U.S. 41 and west of Fowler Street. Part of this plan also includes 15 blocks of upgraded utilities and $2.5 million of streetscaping.

The Foundation is supporting the financing by paying closing costs and interest payments for the next seven years. The New Markets Tax Credit provided $3 million of equity-like financing to the $10 million project, which after seven years will be available to be converted to true equity.

The Atlantic Coast Line railway station at 2031 Jackson Street was presented to the city on Feb. 4, 1924, the same year Fort Myers was poised to join the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s. In the face of shrinking revenues, the Seaboard Coast Line (which had merged with ACL) sold its track and discontinued all passenger service into Fort Myers and closed the station in 1971. After sitting empty for a decade, the Southwest Florida Museum of History opened on the site in 1982. In 2015, the museum merged with the Imaginarium Science Center and recently moved to the Imaginarium’s site at Cranford Avenue.

“This project is a win-win for our region because it is a pivotal example of unique strategies and investment coming together for repurposing and revitalization of our historic treasures and neighborhoods,” added Owen. “Upon completion, this once vital Fort Myers’ asset will once again be a central hub for community activity and progress.”

Work on the site is anticipated to begin February 2017, exactly 93 years after the original presentation to the city.

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. Last year, it partnered with individuals, families and corporations that created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation’s invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $93 million, it has provided more than $67 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan.

Based in Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

It’s Review Week

It’s Review Week

The tables at my favorite coffee shops have been occupied to overflowing the last couple of weeks.  At first glance I thought it was probably the influx of winter residents in search of lattes and other caffeinated beverages.  It is always a welcome sight to see our community businesses filled with seasonal neighbors.

But on closer inspection I realized every alcove was filled with laptops, notebooks, calculators, flashcards, text books and enough cups of coffee to power a small city.  The patrons were not there for a simple cup of java and conversation rather they were camped out for the day and in some cases the night.  The combination of blurry-eyed students and busier than normal baristas made it clear it was finals week at our local higher education institutions.

Everyone was reviewing and studying and preparing for what was to come on their final exams.  One of my friend’s kids was able to calculate on demand exactly what score he needed to pass a math class that had given him trouble all semester.

This time of year lends itself to a review mindset even if school days are a thing of the past.  There is no shortage of year-end lists of the best books, music, movies, or noteworthy people.  There’s lots of chatter about who is going to be “Person of the Year, Teacher of the Year, Employee of the Year,” etc…, or the much-awaited “Year in Review” photos featured on most media outlets and social media platforms. And, let’s not forget about the review of fulfilled or failed prior year New Year’s resolutions.

When the calendar draws to a close we like to look back and reflect on what we have seen and done before we move ahead into the new year.  In some cases, just like my friend’s son we know exactly what remains to hit a year end goal.

Review week also happens around giving.  At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we hear from many of our donors at this time of year who want to review their charitable giving history over the last 12 months.  Fortunately, we have reports and information they can access 24/7 that outlines where their philanthropic dollars have been distributed and program evaluators who can provide information on the impact of some of their gifts.  And if your review includes searching for an organization or cause to contribute to at year end, we are on hand as your concierge of philanthropy to help guide you there as well.

Our annual grantees have finished up reports and narratives on their funded programs and carry new ideas and lessons learned on how to create greater change and opportunity in 2017, and there is no doubt that your mailboxes have been filled with letters from the nonprofits you support sharing stories of success and opportunity from 2016.

There is so much going on I am thinking opening coffee shop just for review week next year- We will have a table waiting for you.

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. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, we’ve 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Dinners, Dolls, and Dignity

Holiday Dinners, Dolls, and Dignity

Holiday giving is heartwarming.  There are so many opportunities to reach out into the community and do something generous for a neighbor.

I don’t think there is any easier time of year to jump right into the act of giving.  Walk into the grocery store and drop some bills into an iconic red kettle, stand in the checkout line and donate a turkey, adopt a child or a senior citizen from an angel tree and select a gift to make their holiday brighter.

Join with others from your neighborhood or workplace and provide a special holiday for a family that is struggling, donate toys to a local toy drive or food to an animal shelter, smile at a busy shopper who might look to be having a bad day, the chances to reach out are abundant.

These things make us feel great and connect us to our fellow man.  Most of the time we never meet those that we intend to comfort and help this time of year.

That kind of relationship building happens at the nonprofit level with caring case managers, cause area specialists, and volunteers. These are the folks working on the front lines of need and opportunity and create a special combination of resources and compassion.

If we are on the giving side of things it can be easy to unintentionally get caught up in the emotion of how we feel about our donation and lose site of the receiver.  Research continually points to the physical and emotional benefits of generosity, but that is only one side of the story.

I learned this lesson several years ago when I joined a group of friends and colleagues to provide a full-on holiday experience to a family that had faced a particularly tough year financially.

We could not have been more excited about buying a tree, toys for the kids and a holiday dinner.  Better yet, we were going to ride in like Santa Claus and set up the tree, put out the gifts and stock the fridge with food.  We even bought hats and festive t-shirts to add to the excitement.

Maybe you notice how many times I used the word “we” in that last paragraph.  The problem is our “we” did not include the family.  We never spoke with them or the organization that had provided their information about how they would have liked to be included.

I don’t think I will ever forget the look on the father’s face as we began the delivery of holiday cheer.  The kids were excited and hugging us and thanking us for their gifts and the tree.  The Dad was appreciative and kind but clearly it was breaking his heart that the kids were looking to strangers for what he wanted to provide for his family.  We had thought of everything that day except for his dignity.

It was one of those moments in life that I wish I had a do-over button.  My friends and I could have just as easily reached out to the Mom and Dad, met them in a parking lot down the road and given them the opportunity to pull up to the house with the holiday fun.   We had never even thought to ask.

My well- intentioned friends and I had let our own excitement get in the way of what was right for this family.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we work with donors to design and execute their charitable gifts during this most generous wonderful time of the year and although we may never meet the ultimate recipients of these gifts, that one father’s face is never far from my mind as we consider not only the giver but the receiver as well.  I am so appreciative of the amazing nonprofits in our community who build relationships and shared goals with those they serve.

May we all add the gift of dignity to our holiday lists this year and celebrate the beautiful season together.

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. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, we’ve 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Potluck of Purpose

A Potluck of Purpose

My preteen eyes would scan the table spread with bubbling casseroles and gelatin salads in search of the coveted homemade macaroni and cheese. It would arrive safely in its protective Pyrex casserole carrier that kept it hot and cheesy until its unveiling on the church lawn.   I knew from experience that this dish along with a certain platter of crispy fried chicken were the most desired dishes on the bountiful table and if I was to have a chance for a helping I would have to be early in the line and head straight for the prize.

Certain gatherings that require a culinary entry to pass through the door, better known as potluck dinners, are full of possibilities.  Some offerings, like my childhood mac and cheese are tried and true while others lean more toward the experimental side of the world- I will never forget the first time the Middle Eastern salad tabbouleh showed up at one of my hometown potlucks- everyone was whispering about it as it seemed risky and only the adventurous took a spoonful.

Somehow without a whole lot of organization just the right amount of main dishes, sides and desserts seem to appear.  But I do love the story of friend that hosted a holiday potluck and everyone brought some form of potatoes.  She now takes a little more time assigning dishes to the guests.

I like the idea of potlucks because everyone plays a role and tends to bring a dish they are comfortable making and has a good chance of turning out well. It’s also a great way to try something unfamiliar and new.   Each offering is delicious on its own but the real beauty comes from the collective and the people who gather to share a meal they have all worked to prepare for each other.  Sharing a meal brings people together.

Once a quarter the Southwest Florida Community Foundation opens its doors for a potluck of sorts.  No one is asked to bring food- just their ideas and passion for the community.  The invites are not curated in any way, rather nonprofits that are interested in sharing their work with the Foundation team and other nonprofits in the region gather for a cup of coffee and conversation.

Everyone knows in advance that it is not tied to our grant making and funding, but rather a chance to share thoughts, current opportunities and ideas. Some of the organizations are well known to us while others we are hearing about for the first time.  The nonprofit leaders come from across the five county region so many times they are not familiar with each other.

The gatherings produce thoughtful insights and conversations and on more than one occasion new collaborations and partnerships between organizations have been launched.  There is so much good happening in our communities and caring leaders and teams bringing their best skills and talents to creating a vibrant region, it only makes sense to bring them together for the greater good- a potluck of purpose and possibilities.

All we have to do is set the table.

 

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. Last year, the Foundation partnered with individuals, families and corporations who have created over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, we’ve 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.