October 1, 2019
Sea Turtles, Safe Shores, and Balancing Decisiveness and Risk
Categories: Donors, Philanthropy, Professional Advisors, Community Impact, CEO Message,
Usually when I hear someone mention our work at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the metaphor of growing seeds into saplings and cultivating strong roots promptly comes to mind. Yet, given that we live so close to the breezes and sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico, I've been thinking about our work along the lines of a regular aquatic visitor in our area: the sea turtle.
From May to October, thousands of sea turtles brave the elements to return to their home beaches to build their nests. Finding this safe shore inherently comes with an element of risk: frequent storms, human missteps, and ever-changing ecosystems all have the potential to threaten the vitality of the next generation. Despite these dangers, sea turtles are compelled to take decisive action, knowing that their efforts may not come to fruition or be realized until long after their footprints have been washed away by the shifting tides. This delicate yet necessary balancing act between decisiveness and risk is what drives change and growth within not only the sea turtle community, but the entire ecosystem as well.
Risk and decisiveness are often linked to assertiveness, but these qualities are actually strict, modest steps that, when planned while knowing the risks, show a commitment to an overwhelming responsibility for collective community care.
As we prepare to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County later this fall, I find myself looking back at all the donors who have viewed our Community Foundation as their trusted shore. Whether they are longtime residents or new to the area, our donors have made a deliberate decision to partner with us, so it is only fitting that our responsibility and privilege is to advance their charitable dreams and enduring legacies.
When our foundation was established by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council in 1979, our priorities were crystal clear: prove to our community that we were a trustful and reliable partner responsible for understanding community needs and causes, and charged to drive change through philanthropy. This gradual process of trust-building through listening would in turn create a culture in which donors could act decisively while assessing risks with their knowledgeable community partner.
In our Foundation's 40-year history, we have had more than our fair share of generous donors partner with us to improve the lives of families across generations: Sarah Greer Mayer opened a children's library in Newtown in 1990; Leila Gompertz helped to build a permanent space for the Community Foundation and local nonprofits to use as a shared resource in 2004, and Jo Bowen Nobbe supported educational programs and scholarships with a gift in 2004. In our unique philanthropic community, the list, as you can imagine, goes on and on. Each and every gift, no matter the size, has made an impact on our community.
We are proud that this legacy of trust and partnership has only strengthened over time. This week, we will be announcing that our Foundation has been identified as a national leader among community foundations for overall impact on the community and donor satisfaction according to the Center for Effective Philanthropy, an independent third-party that evaluates philanthropic funders for effectiveness. Additionally, our Foundation was ranked as the largest community foundation in Florida by asset size according to the results of the 2018 Columbus Survey released in August.
While we are tremendously proud of these results, what these numbers ultimately reflect is the generosity of our community, our commitment to community impact, and the passions of the donors making a difference every day in the lives of families and individuals.
Regardless of the differences in motives and causes, each of us who wants to make a difference inevitably faces a moment where decisive action needs to be taken. Decisiveness is the momentous force that propels action and change forward.
While looking back at our history is certainly an important exercise, looking ahead is just as rewarding. With our community continuing to welcome families to its safe shores, making lists as the best place to work, live, and retire, among other accolades, now is the time to carefully and thoughtfully decide how we want to utilize this momentum to perpetuate deep, lasting, positive change throughout our community and beyond.
As always, I want to hear your thoughts. How can balancing decisiveness and risk help advance our collective community impact? Let me know. We're listening.