Editor's Note: Richard Gans, Shareholder at Ferguson Skipper, served from 2011-2020 on the board of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, including a two-year chair service from 2018-2019.
I became a member of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County in 2011, just shy of a decade ago, but just as now a time of great change in our community. Roxie Jerde had become CEO not too many months prior. While the Board was energized by the enthusiasm and fresh perspectives that our new leader brought with her from Kansas City, there was at the same time a sense that the Foundation has lost something with the retirement of Stewart Stearns as the only CEO the Foundation had ever had. I felt I had become a Board member at an important time.
As a new Board member I was told that, despite a good on-boarding process, it would take a while for me to feel like understood the Foundation’s operations. That proved to be a fair warning. While I was already well aware of the Foundation’s good philanthropic works throughout the community, I had no concept of all the thought, organization, and teamwork behind the scenes that made those good works happen. So, for a while, I listened, observed, studied and asked questions. Things began to come into focus, and I finally felt like I could pull my weight and that I might have something to contribute. It was a learning experience for a fifty-something who had been away from school for quite a while.
I believe deeply in what the Foundation does, and it was easy for me to decide invest my time, and what talents I may be possessed of, to doing what I could to make a positive difference. Over the years I had the opportunity to become a Board committee chair, an officer, and, eventually, Board chair for two years in 2018 and 2019. In those roles I worked closely with Roxie, with Foundation staff at all levels, with current and past Board members, and with the Foundation’s philanthropic partners in the community. I immersed myself in the what the Foundation was doing, and in the Foundation’s hopes and plans for the future of our community.
As Board chair, I saw a CEO, a staff and a Board that not once gave less than the best; to a person, everyone was personally dedicated to the success of the Foundation’s mission. I saw a Foundation that was a community hub, with spokes reaching out to touch and connect so many groups, causes and people across all of the diversity that exists in Sarasota. I saw a community with many spokes that reached into the Foundation as a source of funding, advice, collaboration, and thought leadership. I saw a Foundation that had earned the trust and confidence to allow it to convene diverse community stakeholders to work towards a common goal of making our community a better place for everyone through philanthropy. I was lucky to work for 9 years with the hardest working, most dedicated group of Board directors I could ever hope for. And through the days and hours we spent working together over the years, I got to know Roxie very well, and I quickly came to have great respect for the principled person she is and for the total devotion she has to the success of the Foundation.
My investment of time and talent in the Foundation did not pay any monetary dividends, and of course I did not expect it to. What I got back was more important than that, and was more than I could have expected. There are people all across the community that the Foundation serves who dedicate themselves every day to doing good things. There are people in the Foundation who do that every day, too. They do it because people need them to do it, because people are counting on them. They make people’s lives better. They do it because it is the right thing to do. That I was able to be a part of it is my pay day.