Investing in Community

Philanthropy Day – October 2, 2003

Today was the Northfield Foundation’s Philanthropy Day, held at St. Olaf, and coordinated by Pat Vincent of 3 Links. This well attended event is the embodiment of the belief of the importance of “Investment in Community” that I’ve been writing about. And the carrot cake was decadent!

Judy Dutcher, former State Auditor, now President of the Minnesota Community Foundation, gave the keynote address, stressing that we have much in common, that when a diverse group of people are asked their concerns, they focus on the same issues.

She cited a study funded by Amherst Wilder, which found that we uniformly want affordable housing, living wage jobs, quality health care, and good schools. That sounds like a paraphrase of the DFL’s agenda historically, the need to develop and support those things that give us quality of life. We had a lively discussion at our table, with Ms. Dutcher, Don Tarr and Molly Woehrlin, both on the board of the Northfield Foundation, Pat Abbe, ‘deployed’ in Waseca for the Minnesota Community Foundation, Carol Overland, on boards of RENew Northfield , Clean Water Action , and the National Eagle Center, and Lynn Vincent, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of Cannon Valley.

Presenters included Ruth Hayden on “Status of Women and Money – Strategies for Change”; Pat Abbe, “Searching for Grants on the Internet;” Bob Goldberg, “How to Start a Planned Giving Program;” a panel with Donna Hill, Carol Mills and Deb Weston about “What Makes Your Non-Profit a Target for Charitable Giving?” and

Teresa Tillson presenting “How to Approach a Prospect and Get Results.”

Pat Abbe’s (Minnesota Community Foundation – Waseca office) internet grant search breakout session had valuable information about preparation for grantwriting that simplifies the process and prevents reinventing the wheel each time a proposal is prepared (and which also makes a spur of the moment last minute grant proposal much easier!), and she passed on information about her favorite sites. If you’re new to grant seeking, or want a refresher, check out The Foundation Center and ‘non-profit guides‘ . Teresa Tillson, Teresa Tillson and Assoc., presented information and techniques for a “successful ask,”not the least of which is “ASK!!” which in a “Norwegian community” could be regarded as a breach of protocol! But for those seeking funding, there’s really only one way to get donations – to ask, and to do the preparatory work that comprises the other 90% of the “asking” iceberg, doing the research, having a clear goal, believing in the value of your organization’s mission and program, having a specific reason for the request, and showing results connected to the donation. And of course, don’t forget to say “THANK YOU!” At least seven times…

It was a great lesson on how a community can pull together and pool resources, but it was distressing hearing the realities of the dire need. Funders don’t have the capacity they have had in previous years, criteria for grants are getting more stringent and particular, and there is just less money to go around and more deserving projects.

Molly Woehrlin asked me if my program would be submitting grant applications this year. As a public entity people wonder why we compete with others for these funds. The reality is there are not enough public funds nor enough of a commitment to meet all the needs of some of the students at the ALC. This points again to how important it is to see community and investment in our future as a three pronged approach with public, private and non-profit entities all working together to meet societal needs and plan for the future. Private sector giving is focused in a much different way than the government, and the giving of the private sector is done according to the giver’s agenda, not recipient need Private sector giving is not held accountable by public opinion or governmental checks and balances and it is not driven by needs assessments. Non-profit activity is driven by a programming focus for which funds are available not necessarily a connection to need. Public giving, government programs, are the concrete manifestation of our values. We cannot rely on the private sector in a random way to provide these services which are the role of government.

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