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What are We Missing?

What are We Missing?

I am generally a glass half full type of person. I am a delusional optimist about most everything including my work.

A new year caters to this type of thinking, as the possibilities seem endless and well, possible.

So as I was reviewing the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s 2015 non-profit grantees I was feeling uplifted and energized.

I saw millions of dollars distributed out to a wide range of non-profits via a variety of established funds from donors who are both living and have passed away. The funds were assisting domestic animals and wildlife, the elderly, those suffering with disease, education initiatives, scholarships, and countless other causes and issues.

Donors and philanthropists work with us to create measurable change for the common good and their money seemed to be doing exactly what the donors’ intended- making our community and our world a better place to live, work, play and learn.

Just at the height of my euphoric end of year review I was suddenly struck with a glass half empty moment. It wasn’t discouragement, but rather clarity and I was reminded of the gaps that remain in our ability to support all the opportunities and challenges in our region.

As a perused the list again, I ached to see more to protect our precious water resources and ocean life, more for economic development ideas, more for mental health and more for the arts.

When I arrived at the Foundation 4 years ago there were no established Field of Interest Funds that provided the specific opportunity to grant to arts organizations or environmental groups through our completive grant program. These are two areas that any vital region must support and nurture and it was hard to explain to the non-profits working tirelessly in those areas.

Fortunately, through the work of passionate individuals and our board of trustees both of those funds now exist. They are small and growing but getting them set up was the first step. These funding sources were established once we openly shared the need and advocates and champions stepped up to make something happen. They feel great about what they were able to bring to our community and the Funds are endowed so they will be around forever.

As important as it is for us to celebrate the work that is being done through available funding, it is equally urgent to share the gaps in funding in our region. Not with a tone of pessimism but rather with optimistic opportunity. That’s the beauty of optimism. I believe that working together we can fill the gaps and create a more comprehensive stream of funding.

What I know about Southwest Florida and the people who live here is that when a challenge or opportunity is identified clearly, we rise to meet it.

So as you begin the New Year, consider how you could work alongside others and us to get something started. It is an amazing opportunity that could do so much good.

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. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, 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.

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