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More than Practicing


More than Practicing

Recently I heard the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, speak on the culture of collaboration in his City.  Pittsburgh is a big-time sports town, so he used a striking sports analogy when sharing the secret to the progress the city has made by working with a cross section of stakeholders.

“If you aren’t measuring, you’re just practicing”

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation team spends a great deal of our time bringing people together to discuss pressing issues, seizing opportunities and designing solutions.  The greatest progress is made when donors, business, government, education, economic development and nonprofits are all at the table, no matter the topic.  Over the last year we have convened groups to discuss attainable housing, climate action, water quality, workforce development, mental health, entrepreneurial ecosystems and transportation.

In some cases, partnerships have emerged while others are still in the nascent stages of relationship building and asset sharing.  The early conversations are the practice sessions that lead to the more formal collaborations.  One of the key factors in the transition from talking to action is developing the measurements we will use to track our progress.

I find sometimes people are hesitant to measure their work because the news is not always good.  Data and feedback are the flashlights that point us to what is working and move us away from what is not serving us well.  But if we want people to believe the good news we share about projects and change we must be willing to communicate the bad news.  Otherwise we are brokering in fake collaboration. We need to plan for and acknowledge that change will be messy all along the way.

The focus on measuring change has been a trend in philanthropy in recent years, driven by the baby boomer generation (those born between 1946-1964) consistently asking for the results of their charitable giving.  Research shows that a majority of boomers want to see the impact of their donations and it has a serious bearing on their decisions to give.  They also indicate that understanding the impact of their most recent gift’s return on investment motivates them to make more significant gifts to charity.

With 80 million boomers out there, the ability to measure progress is critical.

At the Foundation we are dedicated to developing the human and technological capital to measure the great work that is happening in our region- it is important to the big game of change.

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



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