When visitors arrive at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, we often are asked about the generous people whose names are found throughout our building. Over the years, every room at the Community Foundation has been dedicated to the caring philanthropic individuals, both past and present, whose partnership with our foundation has helped strengthen our community and foster a dynamic culture of giving that is built into our region’s DNA. The names of those who created a legacy of helping others through philanthropy are the true building blocks of our foundation.
While each room honors those whose names are bestowed upon them, the Sarah Greer Mayer Conference Room holds one of our less known public gems: a 1989 proclamation from former president George H.W. Bush.
Recognizing the important role community foundations have in local communities across the United States, President Bush proclaimed in 1989 that November 11th through 18th would be known as National Community Foundation Week, coinciding with its natural partner, National Philanthropy Day on November 12th. We value this proclamation complete with presidential seal, because it highlights the generosity and willingness of our community –public, private, and nonprofit sectors alike – to work together towards achieving common goals for the betterment of all.
This month, we embark on a yearlong celebration of all the donors, nonprofits, local professionals, and community members who have partnered with us over the years, retracing our 40-years of community impact from our founding by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council in 1979 to the present. While our commitment to uncovering and addressing community needs is constantly evolving, one aspect has remained constant these last four decades: the trust placed in us by the community has been an essential catalyst for strengthening and sustaining our impact, both now and into the future.
Decade by decade, our Board of Directors has clearly directed our priorities as a community foundation: build connections and ensure confidence through trust and dependability. As these goals matured, so did our organization’s ability to expand beyond grantmaking to embrace initiatives that bring others together to address larger issues within the community.
This deeper dive into collaborative initiatives connected us with Diane McFarlin at the Herald-Tribune Media Group, a partnership from which grew a campaign to help vulnerable families and individuals resist the threat of homelessness. Now entering its 20th year, the Season of Sharing campaign continues to empower countless neighbors to help neighbors in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties, raising over $2 million for year-round assistance to ensure families have the stability they need to realize their full potential.
As the Community Foundation found its place in the community, we began to usher in a community-wide culture of generosity, a sense of belonging that invites everyone to be a philanthropist regardless of means. The launch of the first Giving Challenge in 2012, enhanced by our online resource The Giving Partner, built upon this connectivity and created a thriving network of nonprofits and the caring individuals who support their causes. Another thread woven into our commitment to community impact is our 2Gen philosophy, providing opportunities for children and their adults to break the cycle of poverty through education, economic supports, social capital, and health and wellbeing.
While anniversaries are unique moments that inspire reflection on what has come before and excitement for all that lies ahead, the insights gleaned have the potential to inspire enduring impact for generations to come.
As we share these stories all year long, I encourage all of us to think about meaningful milestones in our own lives and how they can act as your cornerstone for future growth, innovation, and opportunity. As always, let us know your thoughts. We’re listening.