My Giving Story

Right now the debate on the fiscal cliff is consuming mainstream media and all conversations in Washington, D.C. Deficit reduction, the cliff, and tax reform all have major implications for philanthropy. Here are the three issues the Council on Foundations is watching and will continue to monitor for you in the days ahead.

In June, I had the pleasure of introducing four recent graduates of the Cleveland School District at the Cleveland Foundation’s annual meeting. We wanted to showcase top achievers to put a human face on the investment we’ve made in the future of Cleveland’s young people. These college-bound students are a fitting example of why philanthropy matters, today and for generations to come. Let me tell you more about these exceptional young people:

The Connecticut Council on Philanthropy recently hosted a Creative Place Making Funders Symposium in Hartford. The day was full of innovative examples of how communities are reborn through creative partnerships.

The timing of the November 12 session, “A Look Forward on Tax Reform,” during the Public Policy Action Institute at Independent Sector’s annual conference could not have been more critical. It provided an important opportunity for attendees to get a clear sense of the urgency and potential impact our sector faces as the Obama Administration and Congress consider caps on the charitable deduction. Make no mistake: Political leaders have made it clear that addressing the “fiscal cliff,” deficit reduction, and tax reform means philanthropic incentives such as the charitable deduction are not sacrosanct.

Two years ago, Endeavor Foundation’s board of directors challenged staff to think beyond providing fund services and facilitated grantmaking by expanding our mission. Through a strategic planning process, we determined Endeavor should be a long-term advocate for Northwest Arkansas. Many refer to that as “community leadership.” Many in our region of 500,000 believe we’ve already had plenty of good leadership to build on, and we agree.

This year, Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF) is celebrating its 10th anniversary operating as a community foundation serving “Indian Country”—generally defined as the land and communities within American Indian reservation boundaries as well as off-reservation trust lands. Since 2002, ILTF has invested nearly $20 million in grants and programs that support efforts to return control and management of Indian land to Indian people.

I first started working in the community foundation field more than 15 years ago. It goes without saying that I’m a big fan. I believe in this democratic model of philanthropy where the collective power of many creates powerful change. I’m also a fan because most community foundations understand that our work is constantly changing and adjusting to new needs. We cannot stand still. Indeed, the model of community foundation 15 years ago was vastly different than the one I see across the country now. The difference is the greater clarity about our leadership, and about our place-based expertise and connection. Community Foundation Week makes me reflect on that leadership.

The city of Charleston, W.Va., is embarking on a new beginning as it molds a revolutionary program for young professionals: Early Dynamic Guided Engagement (EDGE). The three-year program offers recent college graduates the opportunity to live in the heart of downtown Charleston for a subsidized cost while they participate in charitable activities, meet current leaders and community dynamos, and learn about our city’s assets, conditions, and challenges. Further, local businesses and EDGE sponsors can use the program as a recruiting tool to attract smart, new professionals to our city.

Yesterday, Americans cast their vote for the future course of our nation. Many of our fellow citizens affected by Hurricane Sandy endured much more difficulty than normal in voting, some using flashlights to see their ballots. Their resolve and resiliency is a tribute to the American spirit and reminds us all of our freedom to express our voice at the polls. But just as voting is a core characteristic of our national persona, our choice to give time, talent, and treasure is also firmly rooted in our heritage.