Wednesday, December 29, 2010


He’s in his 40’s, he’s pulling in a healthy executive-level salary, and he said he’s lived in the Lowcountry all his life. He had never heard of the Community Foundation until ten minutes ago when we were introduced, and he said for him, no – charitable giving is not high on his priority list. “I pay taxes for programs that provide the same services charities provide, and anyhow, poor people have enough given to them without me chipping in to add to all the resources available to them.” I asked him where he lives, where he went to school, and what he does in his off-time. And just as I suspected, it turns out he’s benefited throughout his life as much as anyone in the Lowcountry from the services provided by non-profit organizations. And I told him so . . .

Most of us who are privileged may think we “pay our own way”, but I bet all of us benefit from the nonprofit sector more than we ever stop to think. He went to public K-12 schools where half the faculty had received small grants for classroom projects, including the field trips he went on. Yes, he went to college with help from a scholarship, “but that’s not charitable,” he said, “because I deserved it.” He’s a regular at the theatre and at concerts, but no one ever told him that charitable donors subsidize him by paying the performance cost that’s not covered by his ticket price. And when he drives down tree-canopied roads to his home near a salt marsh, it never occurred to him that those vistas are there thanks in large part to the work of environmental non-profits. Oh yes, and he adores his dog, Webster, adopted two years ago from a local (non-profit) animal shelter, neutered and micro-chipped with someone else’s donated dollars.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Holidays!

From our Foundation Family to yours,
Happy Holidays !

(Pictured from left to right) Richard, Christine, Liz, Meg,
Courtenay, Brian, Angel, Ashley, Edie, George, Tina,
Tasha, Margaret, Loretta, and Edna

Friday, December 3, 2010

Adventures in Allendale

Recently, I traveled to Allendale County to conduct site visits for the Winthrop Family Allendale/ Hampton Fund in memory of Sarah T. Winthrop. This grant program serves nonprofits in Allendale and Hampton Counties and was established at the Foundation in 2002. Because the family members are scattered throughout the United States and they participate in the grantmaking process remotely, they depend on the Foundation Staff to be their eyes and ears on the ground in order to make informed decisions.

Allendale County is located about 2 hours away from Charleston and most other metropolitan areas. If you don’t know anything about Allendale, you can look for it among counties that have the highest statistics for negative indicators and the lowest statistics for positive indicators. On a recent visit to Allendale to learn more about the Allendale Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy based at Allendale-Fairfax High School, I learned that last year 20% of the girls attending that school became pregnant. At Allendale County ALIVE, a local community development corporation, I learned that over 100 families are on a waiting list to receive critical home repairs. At the Healthy Learners Program, facilitated by the Sisters of Charity Development Corporation, I learned that a large number of children are unable to access health care because of transportation barriers, lack of insurance, and in some cases their parents lack the skills and resources needed to seek appropriate care.

Despite odds that seem insurmountable and low rankings across the board, there are several nonprofits with some of the most dedicated staff that I have come in contact. These individuals are working tirelessly to provide much-needed services and to create positive change in Allendale County.

Form more information about Allendale nonprofits, please contact me at or 843-723-3635.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Staff Visits Our New Office Building

The Foundation staff recently visited the new Coastal Community Foundation Center building. Check out the tour and get the first glimpse of the new building!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mentors of the Year

As the kick-off event to Philanthropy Week, more than 300 guests celebrated the role mentors play in our community.  The majority of the audience were mentors themselves.  They found meaning in their lives by mentoring children or young adults.  Moreover, all had passed along that sense of meaning to the the young people they mentored, a kind of two-for-one bargain.

Twelve of the hundreds of mentors present were singled out for special praise.  Each had been nominated because their work inspired others to become mentors or because their work made such a big difference in the lives of children.  The twelve were:

Suzanne Bennage, Outreach Learning Center at St. Matthews Church
Darrell Brace, e3 Mentoring Program- North Charleston Dream Center
Herb Burwell, Metanoia Young Leaders
Phil Byers, e3 Mentoring Program- North Charleston Dream Center
Bernice Dawson, Foster Grandparents Program at Sanders Clyde Elementary School
Patricia Franklin, Young Ladies/Leaders Conquering Obstacles
Steve Latour, Big Brothers Big Sisters
David Neff, Rotary Reader at Sanders Clyde Elementary School
Joyce Nesmith, Beyond Our Walls at Burns Elementary School
Jesse Short III, Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary School
Charles Smith, Communities In Schools at Frierson Elementary School
Gail Wright, Malcolm C. Hursey Elementary School

In the week before Thanksgiving we celebrate Philanthropy Week, or "Thanks for Giving" week.  These mentors give more than time.  They give meaning and momentum to the children they mentor, and themselves as well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Results of our Philanthropy Week Twitter Contest

We decided to try something different this year for Philanthropy Week by holding a "twitter contest". For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, it's a way to communicate online in 140 characters or less. For an example of how that's done, you can see what our CEO (George Stevens) talks about online and check out an earlier post on our blog about twitter.

We could only have one winner for a seat at the Philanthropy Week luncheon, but wanted to share some of the other messages from "tweeters" below. (And thanks to everyone who helped us spread the word).

The details of the contest are on the website, but here's a quick explanation for those of you who are not using twitter. The first name below is the twitter user who was sending the message. (You can click the link to learn more about that person). The next name, starting with "@" is the person being thanked, followed by the reason why.
  • WINGSforkids@TaylenRae #thx4giving WINGS to 120+ kids every day! You soar…
You can see the spirit of thanks in our online community.  If you haven't already, take a look at the Philanthropy Week website to see what we have planned, starting November 15th. And tell us what you're thankful for!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Passion passes, but commitment lasts

I get antsy when I meet with people who want to talk about something (or someone) they feel passionate about. Passion is fun and it’s thrilling, but let’s face it – it doesn’t usually last all that long. Talk is cheap, and people driven by passion usually talk about what they feel more than what they think. The heart and the brain are equally valuable, but . . .

Give me people who stay the course with something they care deeply about – whether that’s commitment to a person, or to a cause that actually ends up making a positive difference in people’s lives. Unlike passion, caring deeply – whether it’s in a personal relationship or a charitable concern – doesn’t turn on like a light switch. It grows and develops over time with a deeper understanding of the why’s of what is and the how’s of moving forward. Passion is fun, but it passes. Caring deeply takes work, and time to develop, but it lasts. Salutes to these stalwarts whose work demonstrates how deeply they care, in each of the eight counties we serve: Beaufort’s Shauw Chin Capps, Berkeley’s Marietta Hicks, Charleston’s Marty Besancon, Colleton’s Sylvia & Charles Rowland, Dorchester’s Mike Hinson, Georgetown’s Amy Brennan, Hampton’s Hazel Smith, and Jasper’s Sr. Lupe Stump.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Getting Things Done

Two things keep Carl Harmon up at night - elderly people in horrible living conditions and children who go to school hungry and without the supplies they need to learn. So, thirteen years ago, Carl started Caring and Sharing in a 10 x 14 room behind his house in Hemingway, South Carolina. That year, he helped provide 13 families within a 10 mile radius with food.

Today, Caring and Sharing provides food weekly to over 100 families who would otherwise have to do without. Caring and Sharing also helps disabled and senior citizens who are on a low, fixed-income with paying their utility bills, purchasing medicine, and filling in the gaps at the end of the month. Monthly, the organization touches 2,500 citizens' lives in Georgetown and Williamsburg Counties, two of the poorest counties in South Carolina. The non-profit also depends on an average of 20 volunteers to make up its workforce, people without which the work of providing for those in need could not be done. This year, Caring and Sharing hopes to pay out $44,000 for food, utilities, and medicine with more being donated.

Carl believes in partnerships. He works with the Lowcountry Food Bank who delivers food once a month, as well as Food Lion and Pepsi for donations. The group is working with the Georgetown County Diabetes Core Group to educate its clients on the proper foods to eat to help maintain or improve their diabetes. Carl is also working with teachers at Pleasant Hill, Andrews, and Hemingway Elementary schools to gather supplies that school district budgets can no longer pay for. Teachers are asking for things as simple as crayons, notebooks, pencils, and paper. Things I took for granted when I was a kid, children are having to do without because neither their schools nor their parents can afford to supply them.

The downturn in the economy has been hard on the organization because its two main fundraisers have been down about half. But Carl is optimistic and has faith. He believes as long as Caring and Sharing continues to help the people of Georgetown and Williamsburg, he will be able to find a way to keep the pantry stocked for those who need it most.

"Want something done? Ask a busy person to do it!" That's what Carl says, and that is an apt description of Carl Harmon, a busy person who gets things done.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Passport 72: Warming your home. Embracing the world.

Seven years ago, Beth Peterson was on a mission trip in Sri Lanka. She was touched by the needs of this community as well as their willingness to give even though they had so little. When Beth returned, she spent a lot of time talking to local leaders about what she saw and what she could do to help.  She developed her business plan and began seeking out partnerships.  From this dream and numerous meetings, Passport 72 was formed.

Passport 72 is an emerging organization dedicated to generating financial and support resources for local charities through the sale of unique home furnishings and accessories.  Products are from impoverished and developing markets around the world, creating a life-cycle of giving that benefits multiple groups of people.  Hand-picked from lesser known and economically challenged regions, her products will be a collection of items from artisans around the globe. This not only benefits communities overseas, but a portion of the proceeds will also supporting local charities.

They are currently in the process of applying for 501(c)3 status as well as planning their first fundraising event on October 29th. To stay up to date on their activities, please visit their website.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Should community foundations use social media?

I had the opportunity to co-present with Susie Bowie at the recent Council on Foundations fall conference. I don't think either of us was surprised by the response. The audience seemed to understand that social media (in some form) just might be here to stay, but aren't sure how to get started or how to "sell" their board on the idea.

There were several key takeaways from our session. As community foundations, we are often seen as community leaders and as a result, it's important to be transparent. Using online tools, we're letting our community see that we're real people and are approachable. It also gives us an opportunity to be active participants in discussing community issues. We learn what people are talking about online and have the opportunity to respond.
So, yes, community foundations should use social media. (For more information, please see my blog post on the RE:Philanthropy site and view the session slides online.)

How do you get started?  As we mentioned in our presentation, start small and learn from others. See what other organizations (and community foundations) are doing online and copy one that works for you. Don't feel the need to sign up for every tool. A recent study showed that Facebook actually surpassed Google in time spent on the site, so that might be the best place to start.  Who doesn't want the attention of 500 million people?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Giving People Opportunities to Grow

I am a new intern at Coastal Community Foundation and am fortunate enough to be part of this great organization as well as another. I recently began interning at Crisis Ministries in the grant writing department. Crisis Ministries is a homeless shelter-among other things-in downtown Charleston. Saying it has been an eye-opening experience doesn’t even begin to explain it.

I walked out of the office a little after noon on Tuesday—right when the soup kitchen was opening for lunch. Seeing the line of people waiting and, as I was driving away, seeing the people walking up to the Center brought up so many emotions. It was heart breaking to know that all of those people have little to nothing—no place to call home, nowhere to go at the end of a hard day. It also made me feel optimistic knowing that there was a place for the homeless community to go and have a hot meal, a bed to sleep in, a safe place to go. It made me feel good knowing there are still people in this world that want nothing more than to help those less fortunate.

But this is reality. There are people out there that do not have homes. They do not have jobs or money. However, places like Crisis Ministries help these individuals take the necessary steps to feel safe while obtaining an education, getting employed, and becoming self-sufficient.

The Homeless Employment and Learning Program (HELP) opened the doors to the newly renovated HELP Center on Thursday, September 16. The HELP Center offers adult education classes, GED prep and GED testing as well as targeted job searches and help with the entire process of finding employment.

The work that all of the Crisis Ministries' employees do truly makes a difference in the community. And the work that Coastal Community Foundation does helps the nonprofits be able to continuously serve the community. I couldn't ask for better places to learn what it means to give back and serve a community of people that are truly deserving.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A penny for your thoughts?

I made the first traffic light as the delivery truck pulled out of the way a few seconds before the yellow light. Then a second, a third light, and soon the thought of "lucky day" popped to mind. As I merged onto the interstate there was little traffic. It was odd for early morning. The sky seemed just a bit bluer, the clouds more crisply white. This felt like a lucky day.

I was driving to a meeting with Chad Vail the new Executive Director of Junior Achievement. I was on time. The meeting went well. We quickly worked our way through the introductions, the description of how young people benefit from Junior Achievement, and finally, dove deep into the heart of the matter: How do we energize the Board and step up the fundraising? A plan began to fall into place. Chad ended the conversation with a thank you and "now I remember why I fell in love with Junior Achievement in the first place...thanks for boosting me up...thanks for getting me excited again."

Wow, lucky day. My GPS system found a short-cut back to the interstate. I made another traffic light. I had an odd thought. I wondered what if everyone, everywhere, at that precise moment was having a "lucky day?" It is all about attitude, I thought. It felt like a lucky day because I noticed all the good things...the fluffy clouds, the traffic, the traffic lights. Not only that, my luck was contagious. Chad Vail now was having a good day too.

As I merged onto the interstate I saw two cars pulled over on the shoulder. "Looks like it just accident." the play-by-play commentator in my head said. As I passed by I saw out of the corner of my eye a man walking back from the car behind with his head in his hands. It was the perfect movie shot of a man in despair.

It is not all about attitude. Why do we let these little aphorisms drive our lives? "Attitude is everything" blames you for having a bad day...and lets you somehow take too much credit for the good days. It also blinds you to what those around you are going through.

I missed the next two traffic lights and felt good about it.

Lucky day, I thought, I just lived the perfect example of why getting out of your own head is so hard.

Perhaps I can turn that thought into an aphorism. Suggestions?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What happens when you confuse members with donors.

He looked up from his papers and said that typically nonprofits generate about a third of their revenues from membership dues. "We need to start a membership program," he said. I asked, "What are the benefits of membership?" "Well, for one, you get to support our organization."  I sighed and thought "Well, at least this will be a good blog post."

If you are a member of a gym then you get to use the exercise equipment. You certainly do not think of yourself as helping the gym owner's kid go to college although you are doing that too. If you make a gift to a charity you feed the homeless, educate kids, help improve the neighborhood, etc., and you probably think that if you were to meet the Executive Director that they would at least recognize your name and perhaps give you a hearty hello. In short, you expect better service...just like if you are paying dues to a gym.

Do you see the problem?

So what is the difference between annual dues and an annual gift? Why do you feel self-satisfied about one and sorta guilty about the other. If paying annual dues makes you proud of yourself (hey, I am pulling my own weight around here) and annual gifts make you feel burdened (man, they really put the squeeze on me) then you are a member. If giving an annual gift makes you proud and paying annual dues make you feel obligated then you are a philanthropist.

Membership programs require member benefits. Annual giving programs require a touch of altruism. What are you expecting from your donors? Are you asking them for the right kind of gift?

If you are uncertain what you are asking for then I am almost certain that your member benefits are much too generous.  When organizations are not clear they tend to apologize for asking by laying the membership benefits on too thick.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Strut Your Stuff

I have never been so nervous in my life. I am standing in front of a room with 40 sets of eyes staring, waiting for me to begin my presentation. But there is no PowerPoint and I am not in front of major donors trying to persuade them to do their charitable giving through the Foundation. I am reading a book for the Freedom School at Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC).

Freedom School is a national program through the Children's Defense Fund, and the program at CYDC serves 50 North Charleston children for six weeks during the summer by boosting motivation to read and creating a more positive attitude around learning. This morning, like every morning, started off with a ritual called Harambee, Swahili for "let's pull together,” which is a 30 minute session of energetic dancing, motivational cheering, and children's books. I started tapping my foot to the first song of the day, but by the "Hallelujah Chorus," I was being strongly encouraged to sing along and learn the dance moves. I have to say that this version of Handel's Messiah's finale was much more fun to sing than the version I did back in my college days.

After the kids settled down, I was introduced as the reader for the day. Each day, a professional from the community reads a short story. The readers are from varying industries and all walks of life. My story was "She Who is Alone," a story about a Comanche orphan who makes a great sacrifice to save her village. When I finished, the children all thanked me, not by clapping, but by singing to me and asking me to "strut my stuff." The kids then sang a few more songs about looking people in the eyes and believing that they could achieve anything despite what others may say.

When I said goodbye, the real work started. The kids were broken up into groups to participate in intensive reading-related activities, as well as sports and team-building exercises, arts and crafts, and field trips. The hope is that the kids will start the school year at the same level of reading, or better, that they left with the previous year.

Too bad all our days don’t start with Harambee!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Community-Based Grant Making Brings Parents of Special Needs Children Together

On Monday, July 12, the committee for the Charles Webb-Ed Croft Endowment met to review applications and make recommendations for this year’s Webb-Croft grant awards. This Endowment, established in 1994, provides money for organizations that help children with special needs and their families. Seventeen organizations were recommended for grants this year with a total of $69,800 being awarded. Recipients will be announced on July 28.

Part of the value of community-based grant making is that the committee members—each having a child or relative with special needs—are able to share their stories of challenges and rewards when having a loved one with special needs. Each member brought different ideas into the meeting and shared their experiences, knowledge, and solutions. Through this sharing, other committee members learned about organizations that help special needs children that they were previously unaware of and gained information that could help them support their own child.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Remembering the Friends of Sullivans Island Schools

It could be a long time coming, but when people gather to successfully create change, the community eventually tells the story of those beginnings over and over again. For a fleeting moment when standing before the meeting of the Friends of Sullivans Islands Schools tonight I could see the story of their origins being told over and over again far into the future. The thought was fleeting because soon it was overwritten by the details of budgets, classroom renovations, and the incoming crop of students. The thought resurfaced later on the drive home.

Forty-eight years ago this month, Philip Hanvey, was killed in a tragic accident on Sullivans Island. Philip, then 18 years old and full of promise, was killed when the mast he was installing on a sailboat made contact with a high voltage line. Sam Hanvey, Philip's father, was a member of the Charleston Kiwanis Club. The passing of Philip Hanvey could have been just another tragedy had the Kiwanis club not decided to change that sad story into a permanent memorial. They created a scholarship fund that is now housed at Coastal Community Foundation. Today, each student that receives an award from the fund learns about Phillip and his great potential. They also read about the Kiwanis Club. Some of Philip's potential rubs off on them. Some of the hope of the Kiwanis Club rubs off on them too, perhaps more than today's Kiwanis Club members realize.

Tonight at the meeting of the Friends of Sullivans Island Schools I was struck by how the parents have rallied around the Sullivans Island Elementary and how they have sought to improve on what the Charleston County School District provides. The room was full of bright, charismatic leaders from all sorts of businesses; a printer, a restauranteer, a developer, a lawyer, a banker, among others. All have experienced success and momentary failures in their careers. All are now applying what they learned to the challenges facing the schools.

Just like for the Kiwanis Club and Philip Hanvey, the Friends of Sullivans Islands Schools have created a permanent endowment that one day will be their collective memorial. The interest earned by the fund will celebrate the great potential of children. The stories told about the fund will be stories about the origin of the "Friends" and the level of parental involvement in the schools.

Fifty years from now the children of the parents I saw tonight will be asking themselves deeply personal questions about their own charitable giving. When asked how they became involved in philanthropy many 60 year-olds have said to me "It was just something my parents did, they were involved, they were there when people needed them." In a like way, the children attending Sullivans Island Elementary today will remember that their mother served as a teachers aide one hour a week or that their father helped to organize school-wide social events. They will remember how engaged their parents were and think to themselves that they too should volunteer or give money. Afterall, it was just something their parents did.

Which would you remember most? That your classmates in elementary school were full of potential?...or that your mother or father or your entire hometown was there for you, gave up things for you, were, in short, philanthropists?

Which memory would you like to be a memory about you? Full of potential or full of charitable thoughts and deeds?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Center Building Progress 6 28 10

The Coastal Community Foundation Center at 635 Rutledge Avenue is coming along. The concrete foundation has been poured and is being tested. Next week, steel delivery and the elevator walls will be erected.

Now we're talking.

To view other videos, visit our Foundation YouTube page.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The View From The Other Side

She called me to ask if we could check on a charity for her, saying that she felt so pressured that something just did not feel right. Here was this guy on the phone with a New Jersey accent telling her that she should make a donation because the scholarship fund honors a South Carolina woman who died in combat. He said that "You're from South Carolina, aren't you? You should contribute." She paused and said to me "I hate to say it but it felt a bit like the Sopranos."

She was right to be suspicious.  While the website said it was a memorial scholarship fund and even gave a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), when we cross-checked it against the IRS listing of certified nonprofit organizations the organization was not listed. 

Why do people do this?

Well, for one, being a real nonprofit organization means that you have a Board that represents the community being served.  That Board is charged with the task of making sure that the organization's operations provide broad community benefit.  The whole reason you get a tax deduction for a gift to a nonprofit organization is that our government decided that local people do a better job of determining where tax dollars could go than do people in Washington, DC, at least as far as charities go.  Not having a Board meant that the dollars raised could be spent in any way that the caller wanted.  No oversight.  No requirement that the dollars were spent to better the community.  Somebody probably does get a scholarship from this fundraising but there is no requirement that the scholarships be awarded fairly or even to people who are not relatives of the caller.  (Now there is a dark thought.) 

In short, people like our New Jersey caller do this because it is easier not to become a real nonprofit.

Another reason the caller might mouth the words of 501(c)3 organizations is that prospective donors open up to what seems like a real nonprofit, imagined or real.  Donors trust real nonprofits to do what is right.  That includes fundraising tactics.  Professional fundraisers adhere to the Association of Fundraising Professional's Code of Ethics.  This guy from New Jersey is probably not be aware of those ethical standards.  Sounding like a nonprofit is a good marketing tactic.  It works. 

Once again, it is easier not to become a real nonprofit, no accountability, no ethical issues.  Easy.

But here is why this kind of thing makes me so frustrated.  Would our generous donor have made a gift and claimed it on her income taxes, she (not the caller) would have faced a penalty imposed by the IRS.  It is the donor who suffers in these situations...and remember, the donor is a kind-hearted person who is just trying to help.

So here is the punchline in this story.  The good guy gets penalized for doing what she thought was the right thing to do.  The bad guy goes on about his business.  He probably doesn't even know that he has to register with the IRS, let alone the South Carolina State Attorney General's Office, to make solicitations in South Carolina.  He gets checks.  He cashes them.  Next!

Once again, it is easier not to become a real nonprofit, there is so much less paperwork involved.

I'd love to end this with a "and here is what you can do" statement.  Of course you can ask for IRS nonprofit determination letters before making a gift.  Of course you can call Coastal Community Foundation to check on a charity.  But in the end, the ignorance that penalized the good is the same as the ignorance that rewards the bad.  Maybe if you forward this blog post to 50 of your friends and ask them to forward it to 50 of their friends...

Naw, its easier not to become a DONOR so you don't run the risk of making a mistake.

Hmmm, maybe this is something we should get a little more angry about.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

School on Saturdays

For the past 20 years, the N.E.W. (Neighborhoods Energized to Win) Fund of Coastal Community Foundation has awarded small grants ($2,500) to low-income neighborhood groups in 4 counties (Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, and Dorchester). As part of the funding cycle the Foundation conducts a 4-part Summer Leadership Institute for leaders of the neighborhood groups to learn about various capacity building topics such as grassroots fundraising, new member recruitment, managing volunteers, organizational development, etc. On Saturday June 26, twenty-six neighborhood leaders, representing the 2010 N.E.W Fund grantees, gathered at Sterett Hall for the first Leadership Institute session.

The session featured John Zinsser of Pacifica Human Communications, who volunteered his time to give participants “the answers” for “Communicating for Collaborating.” Zinsser is the Co-founder and Managing Principal of Pacifica Human Communications, which has helped Fortune 100 companies, U.S. government agencies, private institutions, and individuals overcome the functional and institutional challenges created by under-considered and under-managed conflict.

Participants were asked to think of a difficult situation that they had with an individual while doing their organization’s work. Through a variety of team-building activities Zinsser led participants through a process to help them communicate better to achieve the ultimate goal of collaboration. At the end of the day, Zinsser asked each participant to recall that difficult situation again and now write down what they would do differently. The room became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop…they did indeed have the answers.
Three more leadership sessions remain for N.E.W Fund grantees.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Growing up in four years

In their scholarship applications to us each spring/summer, graduating high school seniors often write that they plan to “eradicate poverty”, “revamp the entire educational system”, or “make so much money that my parents will never want for anything”. It’s remarkable (and full of pathos) to read their letters four years later, when some of them write to renew a four-year award.

Aspirations change to things like, “Work for the Lowcountry Food Bank to do what I can to help people who need food”, “Be a really good high school English teacher”, or “Be a great parent to the children I’ll have some day”. Reminds us of the starfish story. Review Committee members recognize their own idealistic selves in the innocent plans and goals of the high school seniors they recommend for awards, and they also see their own young-20’s selves in the graduating college students – faced with “the real world” and needing to find where they fit into it.

We keep up with many of our scholarship recipients – some because they keep in touch with us, and some by our sleuthing. Many have become famous in one good way or another, and all are doing what they can to make their own corner of the universe a better place.

Early July, the Foundation gave its 101st scholarship of the 2010 spring/summer season, with volunteers on 14 different Review Committees awarding nearly $250,000. If you want to feel good about the characters, personalities, aims and ambitions of the next generation, give us a call to sign up to volunteer on one of next spring’s Review Committees. Easy it’s not, but no one has ever regretted doing it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Getting Things Done

Two things keep Carl Harmon up at night - elderly people in horrible living conditions and children who go to school hungry and without the supplies they need to learn. So, thirteen years ago, Carl started Caring and Sharing in a 10 x 14 room behind his house in Hemingway, South Carolina. That year, he helped provide 13 families within a 10 mile radius with food.

Today, Caring and Sharing provides food weekly to over 100 families who would otherwise have to do without. Caring and Sharing also helps disabled and senior citizens who are on a low, fixed-income with paying their utility bills, purchasing medicine, and filling in the gaps at the end of the month. Monthly, the organization touches 2,500 citizens' lives in Georgetown and Williamsburg Counties, two of the poorest counties in South Carolina. The non-profit also depends on an average of 20 volunteers to make up its workforce, people without which the work of providing for those in need could not be done. This year, Caring and Sharing hopes to pay out $44,000 for food, utilities, and medicine with more being donated.

Carl believes in partnerships. He works with the Lowcountry Food Bank who delivers food once a month, as well as Food Lion and Pepsi for donations. The group is working with the Georgetown County Diabetes Core Group to educate its clients on the proper foods to eat to help maintain or improve their diabetes. Carl is also working with teachers at Pleasant Hill, Andrews, and Hemingway Elementary schools to gather supplies that school district budgets can no longer pay for. Teachers are asking for things as simple as crayons, notebooks, pencils, and paper. Things I took for granted when I was a kid, children are having to do without because neither their schools nor their parents can afford to supply them.

The downturn in the economy has been hard on the organization because its two main fundraisers have been down about half. But Carl is optimistic and has faith. He believes as long as Caring and Sharing continues to help the people of Georgetown and Williamsburg, he will be able to find a way to keep the pantry stocked for those who need it most.

"Want something done? Ask a busy person to do it!" That's what Carl says, and that is an apt description of Carl Harmon, a busy person who gets things done.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Coastal Community Foundation Center Building Progress 6/22/2010

Cox-Schepp Project Manager Bill Woodward met us at the site of the Coastal Community Foundation Center to share what's been happening. The helical piles were completed and the construction team is preparing the ground for phase one of the foundation pour. Concrete will be poured onto the pile caps securing the helicals, which act as a security measure for our building during a high-wind hurricane. Additionally, the existing sewer lines are being diverted to make room for the extended storm sewer that will be installed below ground. Stay tuned for next week's pouring of the foundation. It's all happening.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Knot In The Network

So let me understand. You hate office parties. You don't like making small talk. You don't like face-to-face meetings with strangers. Yet you are complaining that all the good (select from the following list: deals, mates, ideas, customers, all of the above, or other) are already taken. Not only are you not well-networked, you do not like the idea of networking at all. You are not in a network. Being a knot in the network (or more formally, a "node") would remedy your complaint. So, what should you do?

Coastal Community Foundation strives to be the pre-eminent hub of philanthropic activity in our region and we have worked hard to be well-connected. It has taken years of work but looking back I can now see what we did to get connected. Success for us has always been connecting a donor to a nonprofit. The first step in being tied into a network is linking together others. We can tell this simple matchmaking step has worked for us because people we do not even know come to us saying that someone else we do not know told them to contact us. That's linkage.

You can also become a valuable connector in a network by providing thoughtful advice. Take the time to listen, really listen when someone is asking for advice. Be generous with your time when someone is looking for a job or seeking more information. This seems a bit like "just do good work" kind of advice, but for networking this is really effective. By doing someone a favor, something that is easy for you but hard for them, you generate life-long gratitude disproportionate to the size of the favor done. It is amazing how favors done months or years ago lead to new contacts today. You can tell if you are doing this or have done this in the past if people tell you stories about how something you said or did motivated, inspired, gave confidence, etc. to them. If you hear those stories today you know that in the past you were doing your networking right.

And finally, if people come to you to share confidential information in advance of the gossip, then you will know that you have arrived. Remarkably, you get there by not gossiping...that is, by not breaking the confidence of those who trust you to stay silent.

So, you can tell if you are a knot or a node if people share secrets, tell you stories about yourself, or connect people to you on their own. But what if none of those things are happening? What if you really are starting from scratch? That is easy. Volunteer to work on committees. Volunteer to help make introductions. Volunteer to help...and then make sure to deliver.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Give a little, get a little

Back on Track Charleston is a way for local residents to exchange services. This time bank service is intended to reduce financial burden and strengthen connections in the community. It's all about paying it forward.

To use a time bank, you spend an hour doing something for another person, and in exchange you receive a time dollar. You can then turn around and spend that dollar having someone do something for you. There's no money involved in this exchange of services.

Once you become a member, log into the site to view services offered or to make a request for yourself. The topics are grouped into categories, including community activities, education, and wellness.

Back on Track Charleston also plans to expand their service by opening a resource center for assistance with writing resumes and learning interviewing techniques. Visit their website to stay posted on their plan for a resource center and to set up a free account for the time bank.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coastal Community Foundation Center- Building Progress

We stopped by 635 Rutledge to see the progress of the new building. Cox-Schepp Construction is the general contractor on site. They are currently drilling helical piles 35 to 75 feet underground, 35 of them, to withstand high winds in hurricane-like weather conditions.
Hopefully we won't need them but we're glad we have them.
We will be on-site later this week when the foundation perimeter is laid.
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Play Money Brings in Thousands

Coastal Community Foundation collected more than $13,000 for its unrestricted competitive funding programs at the Annual Celebration on May 8th, 2010. The distribution of the money to certain fields-of-interest was decided when donors played a game that included pictures of the Foundation's President's on the face of monopoly-type 5, 10, and 15 dollar bills. Those who participated in the fun chose their field-of-interest and placed the fake money with his or her field of choice to bid for which would receive the most.

Each person in attendance was given the same number of bills. The money represented the Foundation's gift to the donors, but donors could opt to contribute more and many did. After all of the donors spent his or her "money" and placed it into the "community chest" of his or her choice, the money was divided by field-of-interest and tallied up. Each field-of-interest will receive an amount proportionate to what was in their respective chest. Education received the most votes.

The purpose of the game was to promote the unrestricted funds or as some call them, "open-grants". Last year the Foundation awarded $275,000 through the Open Grants Competitive Program (Berkeley, Charleston Dorchester Counties) and $500,000 through The Beaufort Fund (Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper Counties). Unrestricted funds can be distributed to any of the Foundation's six fields-of-interest (Arts, Environment, Education, Human Needs, Neighborhoods, and Health).

Nonprofits can still submit applications that will then be reviewed by committees comprised of individuals from the surrounding community. This process is what we call community-based grant-making where individuals who represent the community contribute to the grant-making process using their knowledge and experience. This is done to ensure the grants are distributed to those who need it most by those who know the surrounding community.

Although the deadline for the Open Grants program has passed (June 1st), we are still accepting applications for the Beaufort Fund and that deadline is Aug. 20th, 2010. To learn more about submitting an application please visit our Website and click on the GRANTS tab in the NONPROFITS dropdown box.

Overall, we commend those who pledged above and beyond what was expected and at the same time extend a hand of thanks. All of you exemplify how we as a community not only give but also lead.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Stories We Tell -- Dinnertime Speech at Annual Celebration 2010

What an inspiration to hear from our first President, Ruth Heffron and our second President, Madeleine McGee tonight. Their deep connections into the community, hard work, and inspired leadership helped to create the extended family you see gathered around you in this room tonight.

In our extended family I see Howard Edwards, one of the founders of Coastal Community Foundation, and our first Chairman. I see Barbara and Conrad Zimmerman, both bigger than life, and both signers of the first Haven Award. I have a copy of the first Haven Award plaque with me tonight. Down in the right hand corner, I see Ruth’s signature…and off to the side, where it doesn’t take up too much space, where it won’t get in the way, is the unmistakable mark of Richard Hendry. That signature was made 27 years ago.

As I look out across this room I see many old friends. How many of you knew Mal Haven? If I told you he was of sweet disposition and a true saint, would you believe me? Would you have any other choice but to believe me since we have named an award in his honor?

A startling thought is that 27 years from now, when we are holding a Haven Award event like this one, no one in the room will have a personal memory of Mal Haven. They will have heard of him, because of this award, but none will know him.

I would guess that few of you have heard of the noösphere. You have heard of the atmosphere, perhaps even the biosphere. The idea of the noösphere is the idea of a sphere of human thought or the body of human knowledge in which we all swim. We all carry around us our own personal noösphere. Mal Haven’s noösphere is particularly broad as many people know his name.

There will come a time when the last person who knows me personally or knew me personally will die. That is one boundary of my personal noösphere. The next comes at that moment when the last person says or reads my name. That is the termination of my personal noösphere.

I am sorry that these are depressing thoughts, but tonight we are here to both expand Mal Haven’s noösphere and to identify a new member into that sphere of influence. Those are decidedly not depressing but rather celebratory events.

Because of the concept of the noösphere I now believe in the afterlife. I believe that we create our own afterlife in the stories we tell about ourselves and how people repeat those stories and other stories about us to others. We know about Mal because he was part of our family. This framed invitation that became the first Haven Award might have just as well have been discarded had Virginia, Mal’s widow not returned it to us. It is now a family heirloom.

Tonight we treated you as family, from the food on the table, to the encouragement to tell stories about how you became interested in a life of charity. Those stories become guiding lights. When we ask, what would my father have done in this situation? What would people think of me if I did that? While my father told me that the only thing of value that one really has is his name, he did not mean “George Stevens” or “Mal Haven” he meant the name we make for ourselves in the community. That name is sculpted by whose dinner table stories ring in our heads when we face a difficult decision. Which people we seek to follow. Who we compare ourselves to…who we aspire to be.

I never knew my great uncle. I do know from the stories my mother told me that during her lunch hour, in high school, my mother used to run home and dance with my great uncle. My grandmother made them roll up the rugs so they would not be worn thin by their dancing, but that is another story. Those rugs looked brand new all the way up to the day of my grandmother’s death.

Anyway, I aspired to be the kind of man who would teach a high school-aged niece the Lindy Hop, Two-Step, or Swing over their lunch hour. That is all I know about him but I aspire to be like him. That story, that idea, has shaped my life. You might say this is a trivial example, but it is these little stories that accumulate to make the man.

Tonight we will be honoring another Haven Award winner. The stories we tell of him will “make the man.”

I am going to ask Dr. Stephen McLeod-Bryant to return to the podium to make the award.

[award given to Tom Baker]

Coastal Community Foundation is, by its very name, Coastal. Our name is important to us, not the three words, Coastal Community Foundation, but for the power of the stories we tell about ourselves and about YOU. I look across the room and I see Harriet and Linda Ripinsky, partners in a venture philanthropy group that is changing how charitable giving is done in Charleston. I see Bill Hewitt who is creating Promise Neighborhood, a public/private partnership with the schools. I see John Luther, leader behind Focus Partners, which is trying to change the quality of teaching in our district. I see Mickey Bakst, and the Charleston Place organization that has donated the food and drink we are enjoying tonight. Mickey Bakst has used the platform of Charleston Grill to promote the nonprofit sector. I tell these stories, about YOU, over and over again as a way to inspire, guide, and create change as you have done through Coastal Community Foundation.

As part of our coastal strategy we have opened an office in Beaufort County, Edna Crews is our first Regional Director. She is a natural story-teller and for a reason. She tells our family stories to inspire others to join with us in thought, word, and deed. In communities that do not know us well we tell your stories to all who will listen.

I would like to ask all of the Staff of Coastal Community Foundation to stand. There is Angel, Tasha, Courtenay, Christine, Margaret, Ashley…and of course Richard Hendry.

Sometimes people confuse the people standing up right now with Coastal Community Foundation…but Coastal Community Foundation is all of you, not us. Coastal Community Foundation is the stories we tell ourselves, stories inspired by you, and you, and you…that guide us on how we can better our communities.

Thank you for coming tonight. Thank you for allowing us to tell your stories. Thank you for collectively creating something that none of us could do alone.

Your stories have become our stories, our family heirlooms.

(These were the notes for a speech given on May 8th by George Stevens, President, Coastal Community Foundation. The actual speech deviated slightly from these notes.)

What does it mean to be a "Mover and a Doer"?

Thomas G. Baker joined an esteemed group of "movers and doers", individuals who inspire our community. He was named the 2010 recipient of the Malcolm Haven Award for Selfless Community Giving at a well-attended reception at Charleston Place. Like threads woven into our nonprofit landscape these individuals exemplify the work of the late Malcolm D. Haven, founder of Coastal Community Foundation and the selfless man in which the prestigious award is named after.

Last Saturday in the midst of candlelight and decades worth of Foundation Presidents, Past Board Members, and donors the Coastal Community Foundation family learned who Tom Baker is and how he has helped affordable housing in the Charleston area.

Tom Baker, a professional architect, is a founding member of Lowcountry Housing Trust, a Charleston-based nonprofit whose mission is "to provide financing for the production and preservation of workforce and affordable housing, and actively encourages policies that reduce barriers to such production."

Mr. Baker has also provided his architect and design services pro bono to East Cooper Habitat for Humanity and the Charleston Area Community Development Corporation.

Below are a few excerpts from the nomination packet that made the choice a unanimous one to select and recognize Tom Baker as the 28th inductee to the M.A.D. (movers and doers) group of the Foundation.

"For more than 20 years, in his quiet unassuming manner, Tom has made a tireless and sustained commitment to volunteering his services to provide residential designs and his technical expertise to both organizations and individuals in need."
Michelle Mapp, Lowcountry Housing Trust

"Mr. Baker is a true servant in this community and has consistently worked to improve the condition of low and moderate income residents in the City of Charleston."
Genoa Shaw Johnson, Department of Housing & Community Development

"Tom's desire to help knows no bounds."
Greg Thomas, East Cooper Habitat for Humanity

"We can think of no one more deserving of an award than Tom Baker, a man who gives of himself tirelessly and believes in giving back to the community."
Lenora McKenna, Charleston Area Community Development Corporation

We applaud Mr. Baker and the work that he continues to do to inspire our community.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Addicted to Giving

At the recent Southeastern Council on Foundations meeting in Charleston the people behind Family Foundations gathered to discuss their grantmaking. Tasha Tucker of Coastal Community Foundation spoke to the group and wowed them with her experience managing six different competitive grantmaking programs each with their own strategy, mission, and eligibility requirements. Most of the attendees struggle to manage one. Tasha and her colleagues at community foundations around the country manage dozens if not hundreds of separate grantmaking programs all at the same time.

While Family Foundations have their own particular "family issues" (try telling your grandfather about the power of webpages..."its like a newspaper that's available 24/7"), their own particular reasons to be visible or not ("we want to learn from the nonprofit sector by reading the applications they submit" or "we really do not want too many applications"), and each have their own worries about the future ("You mean the US Congress could force us to distribute more money?" and "How are we going to decide on funding when all the cousins come of age and are involved in the decision-making process") however, they also have much in common.

For example, most Family Foundations do not have webpages. This means that grantseekers do not even know that the Family Foundation's money could be available to them. To find out you need to ask other nonprofits who have been funded about how their funding came. They can lead you to Family Foundations in your area.

Most attendees at this conference would prefer competitive grantmaking with a formal review process rather than letting family members just make funding recommendations even though the latter practice is widespread. This means that nonprofits should call the program officers or family members of your local Family Foundation and ask to give them a tour of your operation. They will welcome the opportunity to be educated about community issues. Keep the conversation broad and not just focussed on your mission or your organization and you will help them be better grantmakers.

Most Family Foundations struggle to define their mission and struggle to stick to their mission as successive generations shape their grantmaking. Help them by carefully reading the IRS 990's for the Family Foundation and by asking the decision-makers how they view their mission. You can help them make good decisions by, once again, educating them about what works in your community.

After a long day at the conference one of the younger members of the Board of a large family foundation said, "this conference feels like an addiction recovery program." In his blog post for the day he wrote "I am not alone". While not in recovery he felt that just knowing that others are stuggling with the same issues gives him strength. Knowing the issues he and others face should give you the strength to help them out and perhaps the insights to help yourself to future funding.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Top 40 gives way to Pandora

While listening to a presentation by Trident United Way on their new strategic focus I remembered how my older brother used to put his transistor radio in just the right spot (strangely, it was above his bedroom door on the far left of the door frame near the ceiling...he held it there with a small hook).  Positioned just right it would pick up WLS in Chicago.  WLS turned up its wattage at night and with our radio there, in just the right spot, we would get it.  Even so the DJ would fade in and out.  The music would come to us in gentle waves across the dark cornfields and moonlit hog farms.  By day those fields and farms were blanketed by low wattage local radio stations broadcasting farm reports.  WLS gave us Top 40 radio and no pork belly futures.  It was the keeper of "cool."  The definer of "hits."

Last week I tried Pandora, an internet radio-like station that fine-tunes its offering precisely to your likes and dislikes.  It has a thumbs up and thumbs down feature so you can rate each song until you get a stream of tunes that perfectly fit your tastes.  Hearing Trident United Way's new strategic focus on Education, Health, and Income made me wince.  For a moment I heard a snippet of Casey Kasem of Top 40 fame.

The greatest threat to United Ways, community foundations, and any other channeler of charitable dollars to specific nonprofits is that donors will use the power of the internet to find their own philanthropic siren songs.  They will reach out and find the causes they care about and make their own decisions, thumbs up or thumbs down, on who or what they want to fund.  We can either facilitate that, like the internet's Pandora radio, or we can make our suggestions so good that it is worth it to struggle to put your radio in just the right spot. 

I understand that you can still hear Casey Kasem's Top 40 each week on some low wattage stations.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Poor Among Us

“My kids need food.” “Help me get bus tickets to get us back home to Florence.” “My power’s going off today at 4:00”. Charities, houses of worship, and private citizens often help by giving the money these folks need. But what if there’s a food pantry where that family can get food for free, a transportation program that will get that couple to Florence at no cost, or a deal that can be swung with the power company to keep the utilities on? Then again, what if the askers have no kids, no ties in Florence, or no overdue utility bills, but just want free money? Partnering charities are now installing the software system “Charity Tracker”, so agencies that help people in need can share a database of all their clients – both to direct people to available services they may not know about, and to keep others from triple-dipping. In Beaufort County, the initiative is spearheaded by the Community Services Organization collaborative. In Charleston, it’s Charleston Outreach and Trident United Way. And in Georgetown, Friendship Place and others are looking into it. If you give to or volunteer with a “helping program” that may be interested in the local Charity Tracker network, give us a call.

Watch a brief video by news channel WTOC on how this is working in Beaufort.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

So just what do you expect your logo to do for you?

I had one of those magic marketing moments that convince you that it is worth it to invest in good design, good marketing efforts, even if you can't tell "which half of your money you are wasting." It took me completely by surprise. Suddenly the months of discussion about our logo, the various versions Gil Shuler presented, and even today's constant policing of our logo's size, color, aspect ratio, etc., etc., was and is all worth it. All of it. All 100% of it. I have to tell you that I thought I was pretty smart about marketing but in a single moment I figured out what we should have aspired to, what we should have wished for during all of those months of work, but which none of us saw (except, perhaps Gil Shuler and our Director of Communications and Marketing Christine Beddia). While the magic moment was a thrill it was also a moment of recognition that most communication efforts fall short of what they should and could be.

Imagine the scene. A committee of volunteers is gathered around a table trying to decide what should be their grant-making strategy in the Southern Lowcountry (Colleton, Hampton, Jasper, and Beaufort Counties). Should they just give to individual organizations or should they look across the entire spectrum of the nonprofit sector and strive to create a stronger community of nonprofit organizations. This is not a trival question. Literally a half a million dollars was distributed last year by this committee and this coming year they will distribute another $500,000, and next year, each year, year after year, as a result of how this group of volunteers resolves this question. Are they simply "writing checks" or are they creating a community?

One of the volunteers reaches down and holds up the agenda for the meeting on which our logo is printed. She says "and what do you think this means?", while pointing to our logo. "Those two people are connected, they are holding hands." She went on, "They care about each other just as we should care about our community. Coastal Community Foundation is about creating that care and helping donors and us create a community of caring people." She ended by saying "We are part of that logo. We are that logo."

Wham! I could feel my mind clear as the rest of my senses went blank. I always thought the logo was an abstraction of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in Charleston or maybe two people walking on the beach (mother and daugher, father and son...emphasizing the intergenerational "foreverness" of our efforts. I could feel my heart strings tighten. I involuntarily took a breath. There was a wave of realization that swept over me not unlike the pleasant feeling you get when you solve an optical illusion. Our logo works. Not only that, it delivers a message that it has taken Coastal Community Foundation 35 years to justify. It delivered a complicated message that might otherwise have taken another hour of meeting time to clarify.

And she said one more thing. She said "and you know, those people do not have their hand out. They are not begging people for money." She is right. Donors are drawn to us by our work, not by any marketing-inspired fundraising campaign...or am I wrong about that too?

So what do you expect your logo, or any logo for that matter, to do for you? Are you giving the development of your logo enough time and talent?

I can tell you that we are not changing ours any time soon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Making connections makes magic happen

Making connections leads to making magic. I sometimes tell folks a big part of my job as Regional Director for Coastal Community Foundation is like the match making character in Fiddler on the Roof. I got an email from Ilze Astad, Director of Development and Programs at the Lowcounty Food Bank. The kitchen they were using in this area to do meals for Kid's Cafe was closing for major renovations.

She asked if I knew of any commercial style kitchens they might be able to use to continue their services. I had just completed site visits for the Beaufort Fund Grant program and a group I visited popped up in my mind immediately. Alan Moses and I visited Agape Family Life Center and left impressed with the staff, Dr. Deloris Young and Ms. Sandra Baldwin, and with their amazing facility in the Hardeeville community of Levy. Alan and I had talked about the commercial style kitchen and Deloris and Sandra had talked about wanting to partner with other organizations to extend their services. I quickly emailed Ilze the contact information and she did the follow up. I received another email from her telling me that by working together with Agape Family Life Center the LCFB was able to upgrade the afterschool snack program at Agape to a Kid's Cafe, a program that, in addition to academic tutoring and enrichment activities is also providing hot nutritious meals. A part time Kid's Cafe Chef will be preparing meals on site starting April6. The next steps? Ilze, Deb Loesel and I are meeting to discuss the Lowcountry Food Bank's vision for childhood hunger programs in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties. The magic will continue.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Now is the time to support open grants!

Hundreds of nonprofits have benefited from our open grants program, which provides up to $10,000 annually to nonprofit organizations that enhance the arts, education, environment, health, human needs or community development. However, many grants have been smaller than $10,000, while still having a big impact.

Each year Coastal Community Foundation receives more requests through the Open Grants Competitive Program than there are funds available and therefore cannot support many worthy nonprofit organizations. This year, we are participating in “March Goodness”, a contest hosted by Razoo, our online donation processor. We are competing with 15 other worthy nonprofits in the southeast region to win additional funds that will go directly to support open grants. And we are the ONLY nonprofit represented in South Carolina!

So, how can you help? Give $10. We know many of you contribute to this program anyway, so now is a perfect time to make your donation! The initial prize is based on the number of unique donors who give a minimum of a $10 gift. Prizes are also available based on total dollars raised. To make a contribution, visit our March Goodness page and share it with your friends and family. There are many ways to come up with $10 to give. For example, instead of chipping in with your co-workers for doughnuts on Friday, throw the few dollars together for one group donation. Or, skip your grande-fat-laden-caloric coffee a couple times this week and you’ll have $10 in no time. If you have another creative idea for giving, please leave your comments on the donor wall once you make a donation.

Still not sure? Read what some of our past recipients have to say about Open Grants: “Coastal Community Foundation's Open Grants help make it possible for THE ARK to reach out to families coping with Alzheimer's Disease.” “The Open Grants funding we received will help fund our new Transitional Living Center for Homeless Families (TLC).” “To be the recipient of an Opens Grants award has launched the Summerville Community Orchestra to a new level of service.”

So, will you help us compete in March Goodness? To give, visit our page before March 30th. You can also track our progress online. We appreciate your support!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Let your town be the next one

Reading at an early age lays a framework for imagination and inspiration, creativity and comprehension. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is helping kids from ages one to five do just that by providing free books on a monthly basis because after all, it’s hard to engender a love of reading without having something to read.

Every month, for five years, children receive an age appropriate book in the mail. The content of the books the children receive changes with every year they get older. The Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation has given to the program for Georgetown County tots, and there are small programs of it in other areas of the Lowcountry. In Charleston County, volunteers are aiming to start it in focus areas of Hollywood, Adams Run, and Meggett. Help support the youth of tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Miracle in Southern Lowcountry

The Beaufort Fund, which makes grants in Beaufort, Hampton, Jasper, and Colleton Counties, gave out checks last week to 57 nonprofit organizations for a total of $500,000. If you think that is the miracle I am writing about you need to think again. It's not the money, it's how the miracle-workers of the nonprofits of those four Counties looked out for each other while minding their own mission.

Applicants to the Beaufort Fund can request up to $15,000 in funding. Many don't. Many realize that money is hard to come by and they actively "leave money on the table" so their neighbor nonprofits can get some. Hard to imagine, but that's where the miracle comes in.

Every applicant to the Beaufort fund writes a proposal for funding that includes a dollar amount. That funding request is based on what the organization intends to do with the grant. We always ask what the organization would do with less money should the Beaufort Fund be nearly exhausted before their turn comes. Nearly every nonprofit responds that they could get by with less and that while not ideal, less would be acceptable. When asked why they did not ask for more, many reply that they did not want to take away from other needs served by the Beaufort Fund.

In the Gospel according to John, Jesus fed 5,000 with seven loaves and two fishes. Some interpret this miracle as a result of Jesus creating more food. The attendees at the Beaufort Fund Award Ceremony believe a different type of miracle took they saw with their own eyes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Smiles, Dancing, and Cupcakes

On Valentine’s Day, I walked into a room at Seacoast Church to help host an event. Like a child, I was mesmerized by the beautiful cupcake display. As I playfully reached for one before our guests arrived – and had my hand slapped - we began preparations for the evening.

Healing Farm Ministries and Seacoast Church partnered to throw a party celebrating the lives of people with disabilities. More volunteers arrived and got to work setting up the decorations. Red tablecloths, beautiful roses, and real table settings – no paper here! As the guests arrived with their family members or kindhearted caregivers, they were greeted at the curb by a smiling volunteer directing them inside, where they were signed in for name tags by a host and again were welcomed as they entered the banquet hall. Each table had a volunteer present to ensure all needs were taken care of for the guests. Table hosts were also on hand to get the drinks as servers came around with a hot meal for everyone.

The band began to play, and a number of the 160 people present made their way to the dance floor. (No shy people at this event!) Through the night, conversation filled the room as the music continued and desserts made their way around. Before leaving, each attendee was given a fresh rose to take home as a memento of the evening. There were a lot of smiles on the way in, and there were even more on the way out. The event was a success and a great way to spend Valentine’s Day.

And yes, I did get my cupcake. I loved it, and I loved being there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

You know the phrase for not getting something done that should have been? In the case of co-directors John Caspian and Jana Hodge, the idea to establish SideWalk Chalk, born during an ordinary bookclub meeting, became real and is now changing young lives in some of Charleston County’s poorest schools. Forty or so committed volunteers visit schools weekly to mentor over 600 students and to help with creative writing projects. All activities are tied to state education standards and help children master language skills, but SideWalk Chalk goes beyond just that.

Participating volunteers believe that creativity and expression can inspire all children and better their lives in remarkable ways. Working in small groups, one-on-one, and investing in our youth (and future leaders), one can see the difference.

To support the meaningful work of SideWalk Chalk, get involved as a volunteer. Visit for a website that’s hard to stop reading.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is Permanence Obsolete?

It used to be that if you named a building or purchased a pew, your name would be remembered in perpetuity.  Your children's children would walk through that building, or sit in that pew.  Every day, or every week, your descendants would be inspired by your accomplishments and would, perhaps, be inspired to follow your example.  Over the past century community foundations have grown quickly by creating endowment funds that distribute their earnings, and the donor's name, forever.  They do so without naming buildings, or rooms, or pews, at all.  While those endowments are not the bricks and mortar of a building they inspire the community all the same.

However, there is a murmur in the meeting rooms of community foundations today.  There is a sense of discomfort like that brought on by a sudden change in barometric pressure.  Is something headed our way?  Was Andy Warhol right?  Is permanence obsolete?

1968, Andy Warhol famously said "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." With the proliferation of reality shows, fragmentation of popular culture, and instant success of YouTube, many social commentators have suggested that he was right, although his quote might be updated to 10 minutes from 15.  I used to think that Warhol's insight was simply a statistical artifact.  We know more famous people from last year than from a hundred years ago.  It just seems like fame is more fleeting because more of the famous people we know are the recently famous.  Now I see it differently.  To be famous forever now takes a different approach.

Andy Warhol's quote has two parts.  Everyone focuses on the 15 minutes part.  Filling those fifteen minute times slots, every hour, on the hour means there are lots of famous folks.  Newsmakers themselves generate this glut of names.  Nearly every nonprofit has "naming opportunities;" from the entire building to the basement mop closet.  With each gift there is the obligate press release.  As a result there is simply too much noise, too many people are being honored, too much news.  What once was shouted from the rooftops (literally, as when the frieze below the cornice is etched with donor names or the donor's iconography) is now shouted from all communication platforms.  Because of the numbers of notables nobody gets more than the 15 minutes allocated to them but each of those 15 minute time slots gets filled up.  Having your name in the news is not leaving a legacy.  Creating a legacy takes more than making a splash.

The second part of the Warhol quote is the "world-famous" part.  We live in a much larger world than ever before.  Our families fragment.  Children move away.  The vast majority of donors who give today through community foundations create donor-advised funds.  These funds convert to general endowment funds at the death of the donor's immediate children.  One contributor to a donor-advised fund said to me:

"It is quite likely that my grandkids will not know this community.  They will not know why I give here.  It is best that whoever runs the community foundation, when the time comes, decide where is the greatest need here in my community."  

We move so easily today that few of us live in the communities of our grandparents.  Naming a building or a park does not mean your children's children's children will see the results of your generosity.  Those great-grandchildren may be living in Kansas by that time...or on the Jovian moon Io.

Our cities and towns are cluttered with monuments.  Our children live away.  What's a legacy-minded donor to do?  The murmur in the meeting rooms of community foundations is that virtual memorials are gaining over those marked in marble.  Not "virtual" in the new sense of electronic, rather "virtual" in the sense of not literally being etched in stone but being honored as if it were.  The explosive increase in donor-advised funds is a result of a desire to create a legacy that  lasts more than 15 minutes and is not weighed down by masonry.  It is not that permanence is obsolete, but rather the obsolescence of the thinking that instant fame means legacy.