It wasn’t too long ago that my perspective of the Community Foundation reflected the general public’s. What I knew about the Community Foundation was it was a very well respected place. I knew the staff worked with some wealthy individuals and companies, and they had a robust grant-making program. Three months in, I can say all of those things are true and so much more. So what is it like working at the Community Foundation?
In my short stint I have found 10 things to be true about the Community Foundation.
1. There is a secret password. I arrive each morning through the employee entrance. I received multiple messages in my orientation on how to arm/disarm the alarm, and call the security system number. I was warned that I would set off the alarm. “Everybody does.” Apparently, my orientation was successful. As of today, I have not yet set off any alarms.
2. The Community Foundation has various meeting rooms. I sit closest to the Community Room and witness the flurry of activity between advisors, donors and nonprofits participating in various aspects of Foundation business. The muffled meeting sounds often include laughter and after-meeting conversations that further the mission of the Community Foundation. It’s hard to believe so much activity can take place under one roof, truly amazing!
3. While our passageways are not hidden, they do hold treasures. The files in our office document every fund agreement we hold (more than 1,200 of them to date). The fund agreements describe the details of the donors’ wishes, what type of funds, how decisions are made and staff responsible for the funds. Every fund agreement is a nugget of gold that helps us provide grants to organizations to make a difference in our community. The fund agreements settle all disputes or questions based on the donor’s intent in establishing the fund.
4. On the walls throughout the office, you will find inspirational photos demonstrating the impact of the gifts invested through the Community Foundation. Often times staff are invited to annual meetings or site visits to the see the impacts of the grants provided to local nonprofits. Our staff shares all of these insights and experiences internally. I have found these stories to be extremely heart-warming and decided to start printing and wallpapering my cube with them as a reminder of why I do this work.
5. I work with an extremely talented pool of colleagues. What you might see from the Foundation staff is the professional side of my colleagues displaying their knowledge, skills and expertise. I went on a covert operation with a telephoto lens to capture them at work. (Apparently it’s a staff requirement not to like to have their pictures taken. ) Full disclosure: They have no idea I took these pictures, so they are not acting! 6. In addition to their professional side, we have a few resident bakers, interior decorators, wanna-be knitters/crocheters and some amazing parents and grandparents amid the crew. I feel blessed to work with such amazing staff who do good work, are passionate and fun to be around.
6. Speaking of those bakers, we tend to have a regular supply of treats at the Foundation. Between Betty’s birthday week, staff anniversaries and random acts of sweetness, we have an abundant supply of treats available. My orientation also included a “Foundation Five” warning. Interestingly, they are encouraging gym memberships these days.
7. While the Foundation is based on managing funds for charitable giving, the heart of this organization is formed by the people who walk through our doors. We rely on generous donors finding a fit at the Foundation for their charitable giving. It has been fun to realize how the
Foundation is at work throughout our community, not just through our competitive grant-making, but moreso from the giving of donors. There are few streets I can drive down without acknowledging a connection to the Foundation in some way.
8. Paperwork. We all have piles of it, some just do a better job hiding it. It hasn’t taken me long to add my own ever-growing piles of applications and reports to review. Knowing that quickly reviewing a stack of applications means worthwhile activities result, inspires me to see in those stacks the greater good that is happening throughout our community. See point 4.
9. Innovative solutions. Beyond the staff and donors, we have an enormous amount of capacity with our committee members and community volunteers. The volunteers who serve on grant-making committees have pushed us to explore community issues, keeping us thinking out of the box.
10. It’s no secret I’m the enthusiastic kid in the cube. I’m delighted and challenged everyday. To quote a colleague, ” My experience at the Foundation has been blissful.” I couldn’t agree more!
Heidi Dusek is an enthusiastic Community Engagement Manager at the Community Foundation. Email her at [email protected].