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The $40 Possibility

The $40 Possibility


It wasn’t easy to jump into the fray of all the fundraising pledges happening under the tent on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, but leave it to a strong, passionate teacher to find her way to the much sought-after microphone.

Even before the educator stood up, this pledge call felt different than many others I have seen in the charitable sector.  There were no auction items, and no one was headed toward the exits as the moon was rising in the sky.  These supporters were clearly there with one thing on their mind.  Creating change for a cause that mattered deeply to them.

The organization is grassroots in its origins and I was struck by the urgency in which the attendees called out their pledge challenges to one another and their willingness to cheer whatever amount was committed.

It didn’t matter if someone was emptying their wallet of tips from the night before or was making a large corporate commitment.

I had the sense that each person wanted to be part of something bigger, part of the movement and wanted to be challenged to give all they could to make a difference.

The sense of possibility was palpable.

Prior to the teacher standing up the pledges were coming in the thousands of dollars range and greeted robustly by the crowd.

But when she grabbed the mic she pledged $40 and challenged the other teachers and first responders in the room to match it- the crowd went wild.  Everyone there knew that the dedicated hard-working teachers in our world, aren’t in it for the huge salary.  Her pledge signaled to everyone that each and every dollar joins the others to create change.

I often wonder at these events if there are people who don’t stand up to commit because they think what they have to offer won’t measure up or make an impact.  When in reality every gift has the potential to start something bigger- a collective will of humanity and love.  How much more engagement and support could we garner for causes if every donation was cheered the way this $40 pledge was that night.

That teacher saw the possibilities for change and the way she could be part of a bigger story and invited people to join her. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised under that tent, some of it $40 at a time.

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