Philanthropy and the Year in Review!
December 29th, 2008Yes this has been quite a YEAR! I didn't realize how the strain of these past few months affected me until I started to relax as I take a few days off to regroup and revitalize my soul! Falling on the ice on Christmas Day only made me feel more vulnerable and it has taken 4 days to get my sore body back to some sense of normalcy. As I said to my sister and brother-in-law who were with me on this ill-fated walking trek, if this was 20 years from now, likely I'd be on my way to the hospital with a broken hip! I think better shoes with deep treads may help and I certainly need to get in much better shape which of course means hard work and some hope that it can be done!
That is my message as this year comes to a close. We all need hope - not the delusional kind but the kind that shines a light on the path so you can see a way to get to your goal! I do have hope for a better year than the one we experienced in 2008. Philanthropy is strong in our community and we need to continue to keep it growing, effective and compassionate! I do have many things for which to be grateful when it comes to leading this Foundation:
* We did it! In spite of the odds against us we did purchase the Icehouse - did have it wonderfully renovated - did raise the resources to complete the job - well almost. We still need more donations to finish it up - not much but the last dollars are always the hardest to come by! We were so very fortunate to be just ahead of the financial/credit crisis or likely we would not have ventured into this territory at this time. Truth be told, we did have detractors and probably still do. Puzzling why some of the detractors were so sour on the Foundation finding a home. My sense of it was that it wasn't in the lineup for some of our community's leaders who are at the helm of many other projects.
Our Board Chair, Paul Doyle and I chose the path of moving forward in spite of the detractors knowing full well that we could do this and that our project would set an example on how to actively be inclusive and how to broaden the appeal through many donors who are so very supportive of the Foundation's work and proven impact. This is the community foundation's home - the place where community leadership prospers and grows to help shape the future of our area in a positive and productive way. AND we did it with a proven record of including minority contractors and a diverse work force on the building project so noted in my last two blog entries.
* We had the most successful fund raising year ever in the history of the Foundation. Our fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. Marilyn Zack and her team raised close to $20M in our 2007-08 fiscal year ending June 30, 2008. We didn't make a big deal out of it using our grant making results and impact as the focus which is why we are in business! Our fund raising success was somewhat countered by losses in our asset value due to the crumbling and disastrous financial decline of the market. Nonetheless, I am proud of the Development Team and the tenacity they have along with unwavering optimism and HOPE!
In the midst of all of this, Marilyn, with the great guidance of fund raising counsel Keith Hopkins, led the way with securing key leadership to head up our "not so public" capital campaign. (I was committed to NOT be in competition with other capital fund raising efforts.) Cecile Fehsenfeld, Wayman Britt and Bob Roth were our co-chairs of the capital effort and they were steadfast in their support and enthusiasm! Thank you to our Campaign Cabinet and our Building Endorsement Council. All did a superior job!
* I am very grateful to the GRCF Board of Trustees and sad to say goodbye to Marilyn Lankfer who served on our board for 9 years (we added a year to her terms for a variety of reasons) and Mark Meijer who served his two - four year terms. Marilyn led the Foundation as chair and was instrumental in shining the light on our path to secure our building and finding ways for us to see this come to fruition. Mark contributed ideas and energy along with his support to the Foundation. I thank them both so much and remind them that they never do really "leave" the Foundation!
Our trustees are simply the best! They engage in great discussions, are never quiet with their opinions, and have the community's best interests at heart first and foremost in their deliberations. And we all get along! So many books have been written, articles compiled and presentations made on the relationship between board and staff. Sigh - - - it is a relationship and it needs to be one of respect and candor. I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you to Paul Doyle, Cecile Fehsenfeld, Bonnie Miller, Eva Aguirre Cooper, Carol Karr, Tom Hilliker, Mike Hoffman, Mark Meijer, Marilyn Lankfer, Michelle Van Dyke and Torie Brewton.
* Marcia Rapp, our VP for Program, and her team worked extremely hard this past year and have generated success with our various initiatives including Encore and Good Schools for Grand Rapids. The latter effort involves four key strategies that states for every child to be academically successful, they need:
Good social supports
Good schools and good classrooms
Good growth and learning opportunities
Good opportunities to attend college
While this seems to be pretty self-evident, you have no idea how controversial it is to work in the area of education reform. That phrase itself elicits some negative connotations and our education community and other funders in the area certainly have their strong ideas on how to move forward to assure that all students are successful. This is where it gets quite challenging to work in a collaborative way but we continue to try.
This year also saw greater emphasis on economic development with a $500,000 grant to the Right Place, Inc's InnovationWorks as we try to build a brighter future through invention, innovation and ultimately job creation. Also, we have taken a strong leadership stance to assure that there are helpful resources for people facing possible foreclosure. We made a $50,000 investment in Home Repair Services foreclosure counseling program and the creation of a Community Foreclosure Coordinator position through another $50,000 grant at the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan. Also, we are working with many organizations and funders to assure that there are needed supports to help many people who are suffering in our community.
There are many other efforts that we have invested in and helped to spur on this past year that can be accessed on this website under the heading of Grants and Scholarships. Last December I lauded the Kent School Services Network - in my blog and I still do! The work has been nothing short of remarkable and our $1.5M investment is paying off. The collaboration among the many partners in our area has been a critical factor in its success!
* Of course none of this could be done if it weren't for the financial acumen of Lynne Black our VP for Finance and Administration and her staff. Lynne successfully completed the process, with help from Denny Sturtevant and George Larimore and a huge cast of people, of applying for New Markets Tax Credits. Wow! What a process! And she did this along with actively managing our assets with our Investment Counsel, Colonial Consulting and our Investment Review Committee. Plus she hired a Controller to help in managing the financial complexity of running this Foundation.
* Then there is our award winning team of Roberta King our VP for PR & Marketing and her associate Amanda St. Pierre who continue to do a stupendous job in communicating who we are as a Foundation and they are critical to our success. Also hats off to Brian Kelly for his beautiful photography in this year's annual report. Nothing conveys an emotion or a message better than a photograph. Yolanda Gonzalez also contributes wonderful illustrations for our various publications to augment our messages to the community. Thank you all!
As corny as it sounds, hope helps us in our daily lives and I am optimistic about our future. I have to be as there is no other choice for me. While I am a grounded leader and have data, information and the "facts" to help guide me, it is this optimism that keeps me on a more positive path. I wish all of us a better 2009 and some sense of stability and recovery in our critical global financial situation! Happy New Year!
WOW! New figures in regarding minority participation for our building project!
December 18th, 2008
On the heels of my last blog entry, http://tinyurl.com/62sp4e, came a pleasant surprise and frankly these days, pleasant surprises are really welcomed! Bill Pursifull, from Fryling Construction sent me an email yesterday and noted the following: From all the on-site labor hours, minority participation made up 49% of the total hours worked. Fryling's commitment when we started this project was to use an on-site workforce of 25%, minimum. Documentation was included as well. To say I'm thrilled would be an understatement! The fact of the matter is that minority participation was important to us as was the hiring of minority owned firms for the nuts and bolts of the renovation. Cultural competency - a diverse work force - inclusion - are all key drivers that are valued at the GRCF and make this community stronger. This is a significant piece of news and I repeat - thank you to Curt Mulder, Bill Pursifull, Mike Stolk and the entire Fryling team. You listened - you delivered and the building renovation is beautiful! Our new home has seen active use since we moved in on October 17th and it is truly a center for community philanthropy! Thank you!
Why "sticking to your guns" is important!
December 10th, 2008
I have a card on my bulletin board in my office showing a huge boulder with a person sitting on top with 3 others standing at its base. The quote that accompanies the picture is from Thomas Jefferson: "On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock." Rather fitting for me! If you can't live and breathe by your principles then what do you have anyway I say? Such was the case when we started our journey this past year with the purchase and renovation of our 100+ year "new" home for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. One of the key things I was not going compromise on was assuring that we hired minority owned firms and a work force that was diverse. We did this deliberately and it demonstrates our commitment to inclusion! Fryling Construction through Curt Mulder, our Project Manager, took this seriously as we frankly would not budge on this. We were told by many people that we were really not going to make our goal of 25% minority subcontractors and that we were being too idealistic. Phooey! We were also told by many knowledgeable people that when the contractor told us that the project would be completed by the end of September that we should add about three months to that target date! To that I also say Phooey! The building was done on time and to the point re: minority subcontractors ---> we surpassed the 25% goal and reached 28%! Hats off to Curt and everyone at Fryling! They were super to work with and incredibly patient with us! Okay - here's the reason why principles are important! Richard Ortega the President of Alternative Mechanical, along with his business partner Kevin Fahl, wrote me a great letter thanking us for our commitment as their firm is one of the minority subcontractors and they did a great job with the plumbing! Here's an excerpt of his letter: "I am writing to thank you on behalf of Alternative Mechanical. Because of the efforts of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation to include diversity on your recent construction project we were allowed to participate in the installation of plumbing on your beautiful facility. Diversity and inclusion have been the success story of Alternative Mechanical. My partner Kevin Fahl and I started a company in 2004 with a commitment to train and mentor women and minorities in skilled trade. Because of your commitment and outreach efforts we have been able to train tradesmen such as:" and Dick listed the surnames of a number of workers along with their racial identity. He ended the letter by saying: "Thank you for your commitment from my partner Kevin Fahl and the staff of Alternative Mechanical." What a great firm and what great leaders! Last week we hosted a celebratory and thank you reception for all the vendors and subcontractors. Everyone was so appreciative of our commitment and one gentleman came up to me with his eyes tearing up thanking us for giving them a chance. That's what it is all about! Thank you to all of you! Our community is a stronger and better place because of the hard and quality work you do!