Giving Opportunities

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What's Love Got to Do With It?

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Most everyone enjoys a beautiful love story.  Whether it’s a best selling romance novel or watching an unexpected marriage proposal in a public venue we seem to be inspired by love.

Recently a friend’s son was planning to pop the question and I couldn’t get enough of the details.  I even had her text me photos from a photographer they had stationed nearby so I could see the moment he dropped to his knee in a beautiful sculpture garden.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the engagement scene lately you might be surprised to learn that proposals have become major productions that can include song and dance numbers, elaborate venues and photographers on hand to capture the whole affair.

We like to celebrate love and share it with others.   That’s the thing about love- it is primarily a “we” kind of experience. Love is experienced with other people.  Our first love is with our parents and family and then we expand to friends and significant others.  We have an inner circle of love relationships.   But what does it look like when we broaden our scope and love our neighbors- even those we have never met?  What does that kind of love look like?

The challenge is love by nature should be unconditional and that can limit how many people we can afford that commitment.  We have all experienced the moments when love becomes more difficult.  When a relationship is struggling, a child is challenging or a friendship becomes strained.   The idea of loving people we don’t know can seem overwhelming.

In the world of philanthropy we talk a lot about the love of giving but maybe not as much about the giving of love.  Interestingly the word philanthropy means love of humanity.  So how can we express this kind of love effectively?

In a piece published last Valentine’s Day  in the Chronicle of Philanthropy made the case that “philanthropy must lead with its heart.” Jennifer and Peter Buffett, who lead the NoVo Foundation, wrote:

As humanity progresses through time, our narcissistic tendencies may be getting the best of us. It’s imperative that we see ourselves in a loving relationship to each other and our planet if we are going to survive—collectively and quite possibly individually.

Over the last decade there has been a focus by donors on evaluation and results driven giving.  Philanthropists and funders began to question if love for humanity and causes was enough to make things better and wondered if their gifts were really making a difference.

More and more trainings and books began to emerge focused on running a nonprofit like a business with emphasis placed on return on investments.  In and of itself this is not a bad thing.  Now the field has a much better idea of how to measure and track results and can design solutions that lead to sustainable change.  But just like any shift we make in a field or industry we must make sure we don’t let the pendulum swing too far in one direction.  In other words continue to “love to give” effectively but don’t lose site of “give to love” from an emotional perspective.  The role of empathy, compassion and heartfelt connection must be part of the equation.

Just recently at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation we launched a conversation around customizing your giving.  The idea is that we want giving time and finances to be your favorite thing to do and we want to help you find what works best to meet those goals.    We understand that philanthropy and community involvement is no longer a one-size fits all proposition.  In a recent column I talked about having things “your way” when it comes to giving.  In today’s society we have grown accustomed to customization.

The goal of a customized plan around giving is not to encourage isolation, or narcissism which would move you further away from the “we” part of love, but instead to connect with you on what first inspired your love for others or the community and how to best design a plan to make that happen.

When we talk about giving, money is the last piece of the conversation.

First we talk about what you love and value.  Then we discuss what impact you want to make on those things and finally how you would like to customize your gift and measure the results.

Those components working in concert with each other are what create the most beautiful and enduring love stories for our community.

If you want to talk about your love of community, please contact me at iamlistening.  I’d love to talk to you.


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