A Bird’s Eye View

Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Fall Conference for Community Foundations with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Jillian Vukusich Director of Community Investments, Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties.  Follow Jillian on Twitter:  @JCVukusich.

By:  Jillian Vukusich

I’m finally on my way to the Council on Foundation’s Community Foundation conference and excited to learn from my colleagues from throughout the United States and Canada. As I write this, I’m currently about 35,000 feet over the world of Mickey Mouse. I can’t help but think about the correlation between my bird’s eye view of Walt Disney World and the bird’s eye view we’ll be working from this week. It’s important…no, vital that we as a field work together to create better communities. It is vital that we continue to learn best practices from one another. It is vital that our institutions operate with the utmost integrity to honor and protect the legacies of the individuals and families who have entrusted us as stewards of their philanthropy. It is our humble honor to serve our donors and our communities. And we are blessed to working in the collegial world of community foundations.

All that being said, it’s the ‘how’ that can sometimes be overwhelming. The increase in need and the decline in resources have bred engaged dialogue about better leveraging our resources to meet the philanthropic needs of our clients while addressing the abundant needs in our communities. As my colleague at Quantum Foundation, Eric Kelly, has said, “We’re right-sizing.” We’re all doing what we should have been doing.

I’m excited to dig in to learn as much as possible. I’m mostly excited to get home and find ways to improve our work. We all know that (I can’t believe I’m about to quote Bette Midler) “from a distance we all have enough, and no one is in need.” The reality is that the challenges these days far outweigh our capacity to go this alone. With more limited resources and need that has grown exponentially, what are your ideas? How do we get to the root of the problem where a small investment could change outcomes for families in need? How do we balance a diverse social and cultural sector when basic needs are unable to be met? How do we go from a 35,000 view to building from the ground up?

If anything can be said, in my humble experience, it has to start with community. We have to believe in the strength of the nonprofit sector. We have to engage the leaders in our community. We have to embrace dialogue. I’ve said many times in many different settings, we (as the, dare-I-say, “philanthropoids”) can’t know everything. We know philanthropy. We know grantmaking. We know financial stewardship. The experts are on the ground. My hope is that we as a field can perpetuate a collegial reputation of trust with our nonprofits. There should be no brick walls. We all do better by working together.

I’m looking forward to the 35,000 foot view. And I’m really looking forward to bringing it home.