Our path from yesterday to tomorrow...
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., for an Ascend at the Aspen Institute conference, the 2Gen FunderXChange. Designed to examine best practices in the 2Gen approach, the conference offered great connections to members of the philanthropic community, some longtime friends and I always love the opportunity to begin a new relationship. I even met a fellow University of Iowa grad, Daniel Williams, President of the Steelcase Foundation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the opportunity to learn about innovations from other communities who are just as committed to 2Gen as we are.
Following this trip, I had time to reflect on what it means to build strength across generations. The conference’s setting—our nation’s capital—offered a perfect backdrop for the consideration of legacy. With monuments and statues bearing the names of our forefathers, these are sites that reflect the founding of our nation, telling the story of our rich history.
Beyond the historical facts and dates, though, these are monuments that pay tribute to aspirations of leaders and people with very different life experiences, but who all are committed to a brighter tomorrow.
That vision, the selfless commitment to a future that gets better with each day, can be found here in our own community. Here, in our hometowns, these legacies show up not so much in monuments, but within people.
In the 12 years I’ve been with the Community Foundation, I’ve witnessed people who have created stability, prosperity, and hope for generations to come through philanthropy—those who have given generously to build a future beyond what they might imagine. In this way, the dreams and vision of an individual can grow into the benefits of an entire community, expanding larger and larger.
Their actions reverberate like a nesting doll in reverse: they begin small, within one person, and ripple through more and more people, with each iteration growing in impact. Charitable giving meant to, say, support a mother going back to school to earn credentials for a better career becomes an immediate gift to her and her children, but the echoes of her newfound empowerment last for generations and expand out broadly into the community.
These legacies may not be read in the pages of history books, but the aspirations and their outcomes are no less significant. This is how futures are built—one person, one cause at a time, each becoming the building block that forges strong foundations for a more just, equitable, and sustainable tomorrow.
I’m curious: what’s your vision for the future—how will you leave your mark?