05 Feb CAUSE & EFFECT: Keep Dropping Keys
The theme of a recent conference I attended was delivered in the form of a question, “What Drives You?”
Throughout the three days I spent with other grant makers and funders from around the State this reflective inquiry was at the forefront. Keynote speakers addressed it before delivering speeches, breakout sessions led with it and artistic participatory activities built their frameworks around the probing question.
It was clear from the opening plenary that everyone had given the question serious consideration before traveling to Miami for the event. No one had just dialed it in. Understanding and articulating what drives us is what gets us all up in the morning and it was inspiring to have a few days to give it serious reflection.
What drives grant making Foundations like the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is interesting and varied. Foundation are established by individuals, companies, institutions, families and communities to support and create change, but in most cases they don’t do the work directly- that is the sacred work of the nonprofit partners and this money professional staffs are granting and spending is not their own. As stewards of this type of process we must be clear in our roles and not inflate them.
I often say I receive recognition that is not mine to accept as my work mirrors and reflects the amazing efforts of our regional nonprofits and generous donors who support them.
Philanthropy by definition is the love of human kind, so to work at Southwest Florida Community Foundation means creating the framework and culture for that love to be acted upon every day in our community and to bring the right partners to the table to design and support impactful work.
To that end, last month the Foundation awarded over $500,000 in grants to nonprofits in our region. The money was available from funds established by donors who gave clear directions on the causes they wanted to support and the change they wanted to see.
We all played our part — donors with resources, nonprofits with ideas and skill sets and the Foundation creating the process to make a good match. Now we are partners creating the love of humanity in concert with each other.
The selected twenty nonprofits will invest the money in:
· Developing a mental health clinic for low income and traditionally underserved families
· Supporting a cancer research program by college students
· Supporting a dental sealant program for kids’ dental health
· Supporting a mobile health clinic on wheels to take medical and dental care to low income rural communities
· Establishment of a program to stop abuse of opioids in families, helping families cope with the loss of a parent or child from this epidemic
· Planting 10,0000 mangrove propagules along the shorelines, many to replace the mangroves destroyed from Hurricane Irma
· Establishment of a science summer camp for girls assessing change in environment in SWFL
· Hiring an autism navigator to help families find the help needed upon diagnosis
· Supporting an equitable financial services program to help low or constrained income families access loans for vehicles, immigration expenses and to provide families with an ability to gain credit
· Supporting multiple arts and cultural activities in the Harlem Heights community for all ages
· Supporting access to the arts for underserved African American communities starting in Dunbar with a theatre arts program
· Supporting a respite services program for caregivers of persons with dementia
· Initiating an animal bite prevention program
We will meet regularly as a tribe for the year, finding ways we can support the nonprofits with their projects and in some cases offering fundraising and communications coaching. Working alongside these partners is an honor and we will report back on the change created to the donors who created the funds. This relationship brought to mind a poem I have often admired by the 14th century Sufi poet, Hafiz.
The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
It reminded me of the cages that are built due to inequity, poverty, disease, mental health issues, hunger, environmental issues, violence and intolerance. It also bolstered me in recognition of the sages I meet every day.
What drives me is creating a place and a space to nurture and support nonprofits and philanthropists to keep dropping keys.
What drives you? I’d love to know, please email 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 more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 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. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with 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
For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.