Fireball - - - - on our tail!
October 21st, 2009Last Thursday, October 15th marked two momentous occasions. My birthday - I don't count years anymore - and the one year anniversary of moving into our building on the corner of Oakes and Grandville! Of course I'll focus on the anniversary as this past year has gone by so fast that I'd blink and it will be time for my birthday again!
When we set our sights on buying a building, it didn't come without a great deal of scrutiny, strategic planning and just plain soul-searching. Through some comments that I heard and through the ever-present rumor mill I caught the drift that some people thought us ridiculous and that it would be folly for the foundation. But onward we went because we knew that there were many reasons why having a building was important for the community and putting down real roots given our 87 year history!
I still hear that the building demonstrates that we do indeed have deep pockets and don't really need support from the community. Nothing could be further from the truth but perception being what it is I can only keep moving forward and hope that our track record and our care for this community shines through. Our mission is to build and manage our community's permanent endowment and lead the community to strengthen the lives of its people. We intend to follow our mission.
Back in November 2008 I watched news reports that the stock market had plummeted 800 points in one trading day and it felt like the already shifting sands were turning into quicksand and the course was downward! We purposely raised support for the building through planned gifts, New Markets Tax Credits, our own investment, staff, board and campaign committee gifts prior to going more public for a $1.3M campaign which by Grand Rapids standards is a relatively small campaign. We also made sure that we wrapped things up mostly during the summer of 2008.
Thus my analogy. I pictured that the crumbling financial markets resembled a fireball that was steaming our way and I was trying to make sure it didn't set us ablaze! We were fortunate and frankly smart to move swiftly. We bought the building in December 2007, selected an architectural firm and contractor (Design + and Fryling Construction) and finalized the mile high pile of reporting for the New Markets Tax Credits two months later. We were mere weeks ahead of more discernable disintegration of the financial markets though certainly we were feeling the effects of a down economy and market fluctuations throughout 2007.
That fireball was just a few feet behind us but it never caught up with us thank heavens. So what you ask yourself? Well - consider this: we distributed more than $9 million in great grants back out to the community this past fiscal year (7/1/08 to 6/30/09), raised more than $8 million and embraced our community even more strongly than ever before!
In the time period of November 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009, we opened the doors to many of our nonprofit and community partners to use the building for their meetings and seminars. Here are the numbers: 902 meetings and 6,031 people attending these events and activities! This was but one of the many reasons we are in this beautiful and welcoming building. And it has NOT detracted us one minute from keeping our eye on the prize. We are still strong in our funding of needed programs and services. We are part of a unique and effective partnership with 17 other area foundations to finance basic needs through the Essential Needs Task Force Fund! We hold the funds and the collective effort is remarkable and demonstrates the strength of our philanthropic community.
It is definitely great to be home . . . in our own home . . . in the community's home!