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What Are You Thinking?

What Are You Thinking?

Asking someone what they are thinking can be a loaded question. The inquiry can take on many different tones, which elicit a variety of responses from the person fielding the question.

How many of us have seen our significant other staring off in the distance appearing to be deep in contemplative thought, but when questioned we realize they were thinking of something quite mundane or inconsequential? I don’t know about you, but when I ask my husband what he is thinking I am rarely met with the response I am expecting and he does not appear to be particularly fond of the question. He is a deep thinker but would prefer to share on his own timeline.

Or as a mom who has raised two teenagers and is actively raising a third, I tend to ask the “thinking” question in the past tense as in “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” Although, I am currently reading a book on the teenage brain that encourages me to never ask that question again as I will get no satisfactory answer.

On a positive note I think asking someone what they think can be empowering and insightful. Some of the best ideas I have ever heard came from moments when I ask others around me what they think or how they feel about a certain issue or opportunity. I have found the more diverse the group the better the ideas.

Some of the most powerful change occurs when nonprofit organizations include the end-user of their services in the design of their work. Asking people who live in neighborhoods how they can strengthen those neighborhoods is profoundly different that prescribing those solutions.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation it is critically important for us to know what our donors are thinking. The intent of their contributions, many which last in perpetuity, guides much of our work. Many times conversations will be begin with a general premise such as a desire to help children. But as we talk more, and listen more we learn additional important details about the why of the gift and what the donor is thinking. Their values and experiences shape how they intend their gift to make a difference.

I always try to guard against the tendency to decide exactly what I think about how to solve a challenge. That way of thinking is limiting. Unless I learn what others around me are thinking I have diminish the greatest potential for the really great ideas. Over the last few years the Foundation has invited a cross section of government, business, economic development, non-profit, education and philanthropic leaders to a collective table to discuss our region’s greatest opportunities. We have all learned a great deal from each other.

This is why I encourage anyone funding in our region or working to create change here to connect with the Foundation. We want to tell you what we are thinking and hear what is on your mind. And, by now I hope you know by now that I am listening, so please drop me a note to iamlistening

About the SWFL Community Foundation
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. Want to be part? It all starts with a conversation. Please 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