Giving Opportunities

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Staying on Topic

Staying on Topic

Each week the goal of this column is to connect the beautiful act of giving to things happening in the world, our community and individual stories.  Sometimes the subject matter comes easier than others.

As much as I would like to share something other than the topic of COVID-19, I realize that this viral invader of our lives is top of mind for everyone. So, this week I am staying on topic.

I realize that the field of philanthropy is not on the front lines of combating the active outbreaks through diagnosis, treatment, mitigation, and ultimately recovery, but rather has a role in supporting those that are at the forefront of this work.  Currently funders are working with local health departments to assist in distributing clear and accurate information, while others are supporting efforts to stem the spread of the virus or provide relief.  Philanthropists like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are pledging millions to expanding testing capabilities and drug development.

There is no doubt that the philanthropic sector has long supported health and medical institutions in the form of research, facilities, equipment, training, disease prevention and wellness.

But equally important is the fact that philanthropy has a long track record of responding rapidly and compassionately during crises.  Although COVID-19 is new, we can rely on other experiences in our field to deploy relationships, financial resources, knowledge and networks to ease suffering in our communities.

Our neighbors who will be disproportionately impacted by the spread of the disease are those our non profit partners work with on a daily basis because they are without paid sick leave, health insurance, or homeless.  Philanthropy’s support of local non profits serving our community is always critical but even more so in times of crises.

Community foundations, including the Southwest Florida Community Foundation have a long history of creating funds in times of natural and man made disasters.  Most recently our Foundation established community funds to support individuals and organizations affected by a tragic shooting, Hurricane Irma and Red Tide.

Our board and team is monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on our region and it’s residents.  We are staying in close touch with other funders, government, health care, business and non profit partners.  Please check our website for ongoing updates on the establishment of a community fund to help our neighbors when the time comes.  The one thing I am certain of in these uncertain times is the love and generosity of our community- I know we will be there for each other.


About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation

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 $7.7 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $134.9 million, it has provided $85 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