Since 1987, area residents have been turning to the Winona Community Foundation to make their philanthropic giving as easy and effective as possible. Over these 20 years the foundation has continued to grow and in the past year that growth has included new staff to help manage the changes. Like a fresh breeze is welcomed on a warm day, new staff enters an office with ideas and questions that help you redefine and explain the organization. What is a community foundation? The technical explanation is that it is a public trust that serves many donors and stewards resources for the long-term, continued benefit of the community. Enlightening as that may seem, it was at a recent conference I had the privilege to attend that brought new understanding on what a foundation represents and was presented in three simple words. Promote, Protect and Provide. Although the speaker's use of the words took a different direction I felt they were still the three words that made me say "so that's what we do."¯ We promote giving, we protect what is entrusted to the foundation and we provide services and expertise to help donors connect to their charitable goals.
Of the three words, "provide"¯can be the more difficult to explain. Beyond providing services and expertise, a community foundation acts as a community catalyst, sometimes being a quiet partner to help groups make their dreams happen, sometimes coordinating many groups to help find good community solutions, other times taking a leading role on projects. The latter is an example of an educational project we are working on right now with our Youth in Philanthropy program. Three schools participated in this granting process providing them with a better understanding of the needs of others. As we look ahead, we will be expanding this in the future to provide more educational services to help understand the art of giving.
As a resource to the community we are here to provide you with the direction that best serves you. So often we are challenged with the hard to swallow word philanthropy and how we fit into the community of givers. While we tend to think of Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey when we think of philanthropy, the truth is that, year after year, the vast majority of American charitable giving is actually the sum of lots of small gifts from far less affluent individuals. These add up quickly. According to Giving USA, individuals in the United States in 2006 accounted for about 75 percent of the $290 billion in charitable giving, or more than $217 billion of that total. During National Philanthropy week we honor and thank you for answering the call to be an active member of the community, for both the times we needed immediate relief and for the planning of future needs. There are lots of options for people to give and for organizations to raise funds. Working with a local community foundation is more than simply a financial choice -- it is itself an investment in the region's future. Give cash, make change. Thank you for caring about your community.