Wealth Advisor - on the wrong track!
November 25th, 2008Last Friday I was stunned and pretty hot about a blog posting made by Sean Stannard-Stockton - a principal at a wealth management firm in California. His post had to do with trying to get foundation bloggers to mix it up and start disagreeing with each other on issues relating to the field of philanthropy. He was not keen on those who blogged from the foundation world to comment only on their foundations. Well - frankly this is one way on how we demonstrate our transparency for heaven's sake! I "tweeted" a bit on this on Twitter but was still pretty much excited because we had dedicated our new building that afternoon and was tired and had no energy to write a blog entry.
Well today - Sean's most recent article in the Financial Times changed all that! While I hesitate to want to even refer to his article - and this is to his blog - to give him the spotlight, I have to so readers can see what he wrote.
Sean is out of touch with reality and here is the comment I left on his blog site:
Sean! You obviously discounted my comments I made to you during our phone interview a few weeks ago. Community foundations are working with donor advisors and their grant making NOT as aggregators of their money. What a blanket statement with nothing to back it up! Lucy and Katherine's research came out three years ago - started at least two years prior to that and their warnings were heeded. I sure would like to know how you can generalize about community foundations across this country when you are still stuck on the warning that Lucy and Katherine made - and we took it seriously! Regardless of how many words you are limited to in terms of your columns in the Financial Times, you made some assumptions based on old information or information you thought was real but is not. Tremendous disservice. I'm disappointed. Diana Sieger
Essentially when I spoke with Sean a few weeks ago, his mind was already made up and he was obviously on a bent where he thought community foundations should outsource their transactional business part of donor advised funds to Fidelity or others so we could "pay more attention to" providing community knowledge and advising to our donors. Rather like saying, "don't worry your pretty little heads" about all that business stuff. He never has run a community foundation - hasn't a clue!
Celebrating the place for leadership and philanthropy
November 21st, 2008Today we celebrate the official opening of our new building. The dedication opens the doors to our community to use this place for leadership, problem solving, innovation, and addressing knotty issues facing all of us. While I've heard grumblings that "how could we do this in the midst of this recession", anyone who leads a business or organization knows that you don't just make a decision to purchase and renovate a building and then move right on in to the facility! We've been at this for years! We are grateful to Tom and Mickie Fox and to all of our supporters as we would not be here if not for them.
We are burying a time capsule in a wall in our lobby to be opened 50 years from now . . . November 21, 2058. Everyone was encouraged to write a letter, find an object representing our times, or anything that will show the leaders in the future what we were all about!
Two days ago I finally hunkered down to finish the letter I started days ago to the President of the GRCF in 2058 - an eerie experience! Here are some excerpts:
"It seems strange to be writing a letter to a person who is the President of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in 2058! As a matter of fact, you may not even be born yet as I write this letter to you! You are very fortunate to be in this position."
"I wish you the best in all that you do. I hope you are humble yet strong. I hope that you are exceptionally bright yet sensitive. I hope that you know that you are not alone - that your staff team and your board of trustees value your leadership. Don't waste that support. Build on it - appreciate it and acknowledge all your collaborative partners. Don't take the spotlight for the sake of the bright lights. Work hard but frankly play hard too!"
A wonderful day unfolds!
Financial crisis impact on real people
November 16th, 2008So much has been in the media about the financial meltdown and its impact on companies, financial services firms and businesses around the globe. Now we are seeing the stark reality of the harsh impact on people in our community including people who never had to ask for help before! I told our Board this past Friday that I am more accustomed in how to deal in troubled times than good times.
Back in 1982, I was the Planning Division Director at the United Way of Kent County as it was known back then. Workers were losing their jobs in the auto industry and related industries by the droves, unemployment rates were in the double digits, and Michigan was suffering mightily. Grand Rapids was not immune - not by a long shot. We were requested to create an emergency food distribution program called the "Care and Share" food program. This was in the days prior to personal computers to help us collect information and everything was done with paper and pencil. Gleaners had just been created in our community now known as Second Harvest Gleaners and a system was in place called the Information and Referral Program now known as 211 to help connect people to needed services.
As I was staring at a huge pile of donated can goods back then at Gleaners located in a warehouse on Grandville S.W. not too far down the road from our new home, I was struck by the magnitude of the job before the group of people charged with designing this program. And quite a program was created! Each week a family of four would receive a box of food at various distribution locations around the area and the contents of the box were designed to supplement their food supply. I know that likely this ended up being the only food each family would have each week and it was not enough! We tried hard to secure fresh foods and nutritious foods each and every week . It was a hard time and it took its toll on so many people. It was beyond sad. Interestingly, FEMA asked the system of United Ways across the country to convene key groups to distribute funding directed to emergency food, clothing, shelter and utility assistance. After a few years, I was disturbed by the fact that it seemed that we were institutionalizing "emergency services" which meant it was becoming the norm versus a safety net.
Also back then, Ev Vermeer was the Director of the Kent County Department of Social Services now the Department of Human Services (DHS). Ev and other public and nonprofit leaders created the Emergency Needs Task Force in 1982 with specific subcommittees created to address housing, food assistance/distribution, and other basic critical human need oriented services. I was at the table and this was new territory for all of us.
The system has worked well and is still in operation today now titled the Essential Needs Task Force headed by a former DHS leader, David Schroeder. It is housed at the Heart of West Michigan United Way where it has resided for many years. The above link is worth a look if you care about how to respond to the current crisis and the people who are suffering more than ever before in the tsunami of this recession.
Now it is 2008 and we are not sitting in our new home unaware or unfeeling about what is happening. In fact, owning this building is a visible stake and belief in our community for the future as we still need to build for the future! Owning our own building is projected to save us nearly $650,000 over the next ten years - money needed in our community!
I strongly recommend that for those people who have the ability to give to remember those who need basic services - food, clothing, shelter, transportation, utility assistance. We are working with many funders and agencies in our community to address the severity of this economic downturn on real people. In fact this is a time to remember all the nonprofit organizations you care about as the downturn is negatively affecting our nonprofit sector and they need your support so there is a future for this sector.
That is why we are so concerned about keeping our purchasing power paramount so we do what we are in the business to do . . . address the key needs and concerns in our community. Philanthropy is needed now more than ever and I know that this community will rise up and meet the challenge just like we did in 1982 - - - - just like we did in the early 1990's - - - - just like we have done in this decade which has seen the continual erosion of the quality of life for many of the most vulnerable in our community.
Letter to the GRCF Prez in 2058!
November 13th, 2008In the April 15, 1923 edition of the newspaper The Grand Rapids Herald (no longer in existence) a headline celebrated the creation of this Foundation and it read: "Foundation Destined to Make G.R. Croesus". Wow what an unveiling - - - what an entry into the community - - - - what excitement! A great way to reinforce the role of philanthropy in our community.
The first paragraph exclaimed: "Grand Rapids may be a multi-millionaire 50 years hence - through inheritance. The means are provided by the recent formation through an Association of Commerce initiative, of the Grand Rapids Foundation." This was our name for more than 78 years until we inserted the word community.
We were introduced those many decades ago in a dramatic fashion but this did not overpower the vision that Lee Hutchins, our founder, and the leaders involved had when actually the Foundation was created in 1922. The many people who followed Mr. Hutchins and others certainly contributed greatly to see that the vision came to fruition!
So 86 years later we are now celebrating our move into our new home - a 104 year old historic building that has been lovingly renovated and restored as a place for community convening and problem solving. There is a brief video on our website produced by Chuck Peterson and a video and article in today's edition of Rapid Growth - video shot by Andy Dragt.
As part of the celebration of moving into our new home, a time capsule is being tucked away in a wall in our lobby to be opened 50 years from now and I'm in the midst of writing a letter to the person who will be the Foundation's president in 2058 to be placed in the capsule! This is a great exercise!
Here we are in the midst of a recession - now the financial leaders are actually saying it - trying to assure the community that we will still be making grants into the community, that we are holding our own and that we care very deeply about the needs of the people in our area. It will be interesting to note to my successor how we communicated in 2008 - how we responded in good times and in down times. But mostly that our staff is exceptional and that our board is remarkable and I trust that the leadership in future years will carry on in the same fashion just as we have since the Foundation was introduced in 1922. Croesus indeed but more importantly a Foundation that is effective and having a positive impact working together with many people, donors, businesses, governmental entities and organizations in our community. Here's to the future!
Take a Video Tour of Our New Home!
November 3rd, 2008The move last Friday was incredibly smooth thanks to lots of planning and preparation. Here it is, day one in our new home and we are almost completely settled in and unpacked.
If you haven't already done so, please enjoy the video tour of the new space at grfoundation.org/newhome. Our staff had a fun time creating this for you.
We hope you'll stop by for a visit soon!