10 Apr 2019 Caffeine, Airboats and Advocates
The team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is constantly learning. We are committed to staying connected to the community and are always on the lookout for ways to engage with donors, advocates, volunteers, nonprofits and residents. One of our core values is to always be curious.
The thousands of nonprofits in our region are the superheroes on the front lines addressing our community’s most pressing needs and seizing opportunities to create change. The more we know about their work, challenges and impact the better equipped we are to share stories of how their efforts create regional change for the common good. One goal of our learning journey is to pass along what we discover.
When we opened Collaboratory, a space created to bring people together, one of our goals was to connect to the important work happening all around us, and then share it widely with those who have the resources to help make a difference.
The team is intentional about making these connections. When we provide grants to nonprofits we create learning communities that bring us together on a regular basis, and quarterly we host Caffeinated Conversations, inviting nonprofits from our 5 county region in to share a cup of coffee and dialogue about their vision, plans and the possibilities they imagine for Southwest Florida. It is a great way for our team to learn more about their work, and for them to hear from each other.
In every gathering over the past few years, nonprofits who attend have found synergies and partnerships. We set the stage, buy the coffee and they take it from there. Our team is always amazed to discover organizations we were not aware of prior to the roundtables or new strategies, research and ideas being implemented by organizations we have been connected to for years.
Sometimes our education takes us out of the office. Our team has taken regional road trips, volunteered for community projects together or independently and toured nonprofits to see them in action.
Last week I had the opportunity to jump on an airboat with the Everglades Foundation to experience firsthand the national treasure the organization is dedicated to restoring through science, advocacy and education. No amount of reading or talking about the Everglades and the Florida Bay can replicate trekking through Big Cypress National Preserve, boating through Florida Bay or experiencing the River of Grass on an airboat.
As a lifelong Floridian, I realized it had been over a decade since I had experienced the Everglades in this up close and personal way. The scientists and educators from the Everglades Foundation accompanied our group to provide information and inspiration. As their co-founder Paul Tudor Jones ll dreams about the day the Foundation will transition work from restoration to preservation, their dedicated team, donors, supporters continue the important efforts to make that vision a reality.
As I took in the expansive view from my perch on the airboat, surrounded by endangered species, beautiful flora and fauna, a fragile ecosystem and passionate changemakers I realized that there is so much more I need to learn. My gratitude to all of you that are willing to teach me.
If you are a nonprofit that would like to join us for Caffeinated Conversations, or you have learned something about our community you would like to share please reach out to me at [email protected]. To learn more about the Everglades Foundation visit www.evergladesfoundation.org.
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 more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 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. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.