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The Future is in the Cards

The Future is in the Cards

Summer reminds me of really specific things.  One of those things is card games.  As a kid I spent a good deal of time with my grandparents and my grandmother was a bit of a card shark—not the poker type but the rummy and bridge variety.  We would spend days that turned into months on running games of rummy and the longer I played the more I learned.  She also taught me how to shuffle the cards in two directions and solitaire for the times that she was too busy to play with me.  My own kids still find it hard to believe that solitaire was once played with an actual deck of cards and not on phones.

Over the years I have been somewhat successful at engaging my own kids in long running card games.  I had to pick my moments, normally when the electricity was out or when batteries on hand held devices had died on extended car trips.  But once I had them hooked on the magic of cards they were all in.  A couple of years ago my youngest woke me up in the middle of the night to show me how he had mastered the two direction shuffle- I wasn’t mad, I was proud!

It has been a few years since I have lured any friends or family into a card game.  I never got on board with the poker craze so my opportunities for time over a new stiff deck of cards has been limited.

So imagine my joy when last week at state wide conference for the field of philanthropy, one of the speakers had put decks of cards on the table as part of his presentation.  As he was sharing his findings on a study his organization had conducted titled What’s Next for Community Philanthropy all I could think about was shuffling those cards.  He had promised early on in his remarks that we would be using the cards for an activity and I was looking forward to getting started.

I soon learned that this was not a standard deck of 52 playing cards, but rather a tool that could help community members examine their long held beliefs around giving and help us challenge the status quo.  The premise of this card game was to reveal that as our community changes, philanthropy must make sure it is keeping up.   Much of this status quo busting in the field of giving is being led by modern day donors.  They want to do things differently and they need organizations like the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to support and foster their efforts.

Today’s philanthropists are talking about ideas like establishing non-traditional scholarship funds that reduce student debt, creating funds that loan nonprofits dollars at low interest rates,  working alongside the nonprofit’s they support to create emerging strategies with measurable results and supporting overhead costs rather than shying away from them.   They want to be creative in their giving and they are looking for partners who want to explore these ideas.

This kind of thinking means that organizations like the Foundation, must be willing to reshuffle our existing deck of cards to meet the needs of the future.  We must be flexible and forward thinking to create change for the common good.  It is an ongoing process much like my early rummy experience, and we learn more from each philanthropist we meet.

Don’t worry, the Foundation team and I have plenty of practice with the two way shuffle and are willing to teach anyone who would like to learn.

I would love to hear about your ideas about the future of giving in our region.  You can reach me at [email protected]

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been supporting the communities of Lee, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Collier counties since 1976. With assets over $75 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. For more information, please call 274-5900, or visit our web site at


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