Strengthening Communities

I have attended a lot of conferences over the years and have always felt driven to go to as many sessions as possible, to gather information and knowledge to bring back to my colleagues at the Maine Community Foundation. This time around was no different: I set out to get the latest on National Standards, to explore issues related to endowed philanthropy, to learn how community foundations and United Ways can do more together.

On November 8, 2015, millions in Myanmar went to the polls to cast their votes – many for the first or second time in their lives – for members of the Union Parliament as well as for the 14 state and region parliaments. After decades of military rule, this marked the country’s first election in which all political parties participated, and on March 15, the new Parliament elected the new president, Htin Kyaw. To bridge this crucial voter information gap, The Asia Foundation turned to Myanmar’s small but rapidly growing tech community. On September 12, just two months before elections, more than 130 developers and designers in 30 teams entered the MaePaySoh Hack Challenge, a competition to create mobile and web applications that are user-friendly, fun, and full of essential information for voters about the general elections.

Historically, community foundations have worked to create change by making grants to local nonprofits, advocacy groups, and other organizations. But a new breed of funders is showing how, by serving in yet another role, they can foster change that is more comprehensive, more responsive to residents’ needs, and, hopefully, more enduring. This role involves reaching into the very roots of the community to its people, and empowering them.

My journey with community philanthropy began when I accepted we all die. The goal isn’t to live forever. The goal is to create something that will. This is why I have an endowment with my local community foundation and I suggest you consider the same to make a difference in the world; at least your little corner of it.

Immigration reform is a hot topic on the national scene as the 2016 presidential election looms. While no consensus legislation has emerged on Capitol Hill to date, our guests will discuss how funders can play a role in educating policymakers on the impacts of pro and con policies. Get an update on federal Executive Branch actions to implement the President's 2014 Executive Order that focused on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks. Explore what funders can do to promote sensible policies that insure fair treatment of immigrants and their families.