Many years ago, when I first stepped into the Community Foundation world, actually leaped might be a more accurate description, I was told that the Community Foundations do 3 things; raise money, manage money and give money to worthy causes. While this is essentially correct, what I have learned over the last 24 years is that there are really two other very critically important roles Community Foundations play that are key to building a healthy community.
First, and foremost, is establishing and nurturing a trusting, transparent and collaborative relationship with our donors. What we bring to the table early on is our comprehensive understanding of the local and national philanthropic landscape. If one of our Donor Advised Fund holders is interested in giving to organizations that are impacting children of poverty, we can tell them who is doing the work, who is doing it very effectively and who has the long-term sustainability that would make them a wise investment. We know this because we have been collecting data and making grants to our nonprofit community for over two decades and we intimately know who is doing the best job in what field. We also work very hard at getting to know and understand our donors so that when we hear about projects that need help, we can bring them to our donor’s attention. When this is happens, I typically check in with a donor and preface my remarks by saying, “it will not hurt my feelings if you are not interested in this project, but I thought you might find it of interest.” At that point it is totally up to the donor to decide if they want to pursue it. We understand our donors have a myriad of interests and responsibilities and they simply cannot focus on giving all the time, but we can. This is a service we take great pride in and spend a lot of time and energy on to ensure our donors can make significant and measurable differences in the causes they believe in.
Secondly, for many of our donors we become their philanthropic back office and we take care of all the administrative details that must be done to insure successful philanthropy. Whether it is maintaining a database on all their giving over the years, doing research on local, national or international nonprofits they might have an interest in, designing and organizing a family giving strategy or finding other donors who might be interested in financially partnering with them on a project that needs larger investment. We have the resources and expertise to completely handle all of this for our donors. We realize giving money away may seem simple at first glance, but we know from experience if you want to do it wisely, strategically and intentionally it takes time, knowledge and commitment. We can be especially helpful to families who are looking at long-term generational estate planning by providing examples of what has been done and connecting our donors to professionals who can insure they are maximizing their tax benefits and achieving their goals.
I’ve often described our Foundation as a “Reservoir of Hope” and I truly believe it is, but this all-important hope springs from the most essential resource of all, caring, well-informed and strategically focused donors. For good, For High Point, Forever.