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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




Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More