What are you doing for your community?

By Rebecca Taylor

Presenting the cheque to Ms. Seal's class at Hugh Beaton

KidStart Presentation for Ms. Seal’s Kindergarten class at Hugh Beaton

I was recently hired as the temporary administrative assistant at the WindsorEssex Community Foundation.  Needless to say it was surprising to learn what a community foundation actually does, but most surprising was what projects they have done and what projects they fund.  They have spent years beautifying the riverfront with the Peace Fountain, Bert Weeks Fountain, the Peace Beacon, and Charles Clark Square.  Each year they also fund community projects through their Community Impact Grant (CIG) program and the KidStart Mini-Grant program with the school boards.

Being at the foundation for the CIG and GECDSB KidStart program processes has given me more respect for the administrative side of getting a grant ready and implementing it, but it has also given me a warm fuzzy feeling about the direction our community is headed in.

KidStart Presentation for Ms. Thwaites and Ms. Antovski’s Kindergarten classes at W. G. Davis School

KidStart Presentation for Ms. Thwaites and Ms. Antovski’s Kindergarten classes at W. G. Davis School

I have attended KidStart cheque presentations for the last two days, and the enthusiasm and passion these kindergarteners have for their projects and their community astonished me.  I could really see the joy these kids felt being able to help other people with their projects.  I feel inspired by these children to play a role in making our community an even better place to live.  I challenge each and every one of you dear readers as well to see how you can get involved and help Windsor and Essex County become a better and more caring community.

To learn more about the WindsorEssex Community Foundation’s grant programs, please click here.

The Right Tool for the Job

In 1917, Julius Rosenwald, president of the Sears Roebuck Company, used $70 million of his personal wealth to form the Rosenwald Fund. Rosenwald chose not to endow this fund, but rather decided that all of the $70 million was to be used for charitable purposes so that by the year 1947, the Fund would be gone. Rosenwald explained that he wanted to avoid “the tendency to bureaucracy” and other shortcomings that he saw coming with permanent endowment funds.

Some people today agree with Mr. Rosenwald and donate substantial amounts of money to establish funds that are to be used up in a set period of time. This year’s Federal Budget changed rules governing foundations to make these types of gifts easier for foundations and charities to set up and manage. Perhaps this is why we see more articles recently in the media advocating for self-depleting funds like the Rosenwald Fund.

But not everyone agrees with Mr. Rosenwald’s theory that permanent endowment funds automatically bring bloated bureaucracy whose sole purpose is “to prolong their existence indefinitely.”  As proof of the vibrancy of the custodians of permanently endowed funds, we can turn to foundations such as the Winnipeg Foundation, celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and continuing to support the Winnipeg community vigorously and with great positive effect.

So, should you endow your philanthropic gift in perpetuity as many Canadians have done? Examples of these permanent endowments would be: the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Metcalf Foundation, and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.  Or should you set up a self-depleting fund as Mr. Rosenwald did?

My advice is this. Since you have the option of using either means to achieve your philanthropic goals, I suggest that you use the one that will work best. Is there a specific problem that you want solved? If so, then set up a fund that will be finished when the task is completed. If your cause is one that will continue in perpetuity, then set up the fund to match. You even have the option of using both types of funds if you have the financial resources to do so.

Great Place to Leave A Legacy logoI have one more suggestion for you. Since community foundations have the expertise in establishing the types of funds that will best achieve your philanthropic goals and since they have the widest range of options to offer each donor, why not use them as the stewards of your funds? Remember, community foundations are great places to leave your philanthropic legacy.

Sincerely,
Glenn

Glenn StresmanGlenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

When I Least Expected it – Kindness Appeared

When I least expected it – A Random Act of Kindness Appeared!

For the past year, I have been encouraging people to consider doing random acts of kindness. I have read many reports detailing the good things that have happened through the program we put in place last November. Yet I was flabbergasted when I was the recipient of the very thing I have been advocating.

Allow me to explain. I had just settled down for a five-hour flight on Air Canada. I was in the window seat in the last row of the crowded plane – seat #37A. When the flight attendant brought the snack cart by, I thought that I would buy a bag of cashews and offered the attendant a $5 bill as payment.

“Sorry sir,” she said. “Credit cards only.”

I thought to myself that this was no way to do business. Why should I use my credit card for such a small purchase? So I decided that I would protest by not buying anything. Then my seatmate took out his credit card and bought me a bag of cashews. When I least expected it, a random act of kindness appeared!

In retrospect, what so surprised me was the result of this simple act of generosity. For the rest of the flight, we had an extended conversation about many things. This gentleman went out of his way to make my day better and I was touched by it in a very positive way. To use and old adage, he made my day.

Random Act of Kindness Day logoWe are just starting to plan for Random Acts of Kindness Day 2011. While we use a single day to highlight caring, I am pleased to report that generosity happens every day in any number of good deeds done when people least expect it. Count me as one who has experienced it personally!

 

 

Glenn Stresman

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

 

 

 

 

Check out these sites for more information on Random Act of Kindness Day:

What Attaches People to Their Communities?

A colleague sent me a message the other day with a website to check out, www.soulofthecommunity.org. The website provides details of a most interesting project funded by the John S. and James Knight Foundation. The study interviewed 43,000 people in 26 communities in the US, asking the questions, “What makes a community a desirable place to live?” and “What draws people to stake their future in it?”

The answer to these questions? I quote from the website,

“…the study has found that three main qualities attach people to place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness (how welcoming a place is) and the area’s aesthetics (its physical beauty and green spaces.)”

The answer did not surprise me – a friend from Kingston always talked about communities having a body and a soul. The Community Foundation’s role, she said, was to nurture both. And so we do.

We provide for the needs of the body of the community by providing grants for things like community gardens and repairing roofs for senior centers, for new pots for a soup kitchen and for equipment that assist children with special needs.

But there are other grants that go beyond meeting basic needs, like the grant we made last year to teach children newly arrived in Canada how to skate, using the rink at Charles Clark Square. In my mind, here is the quintessential Canadian activity, provided to newcomers through the philanthropy of local citizens for the purpose of building community. This grant nurtured the soul of our community.

The Community Foundation depends on our partners who are our donors. We also depend on our partners who are our grantees for such creative projects to fund. Together we work to nurture a community with ties to its people, ties that form strong community bonds to both body and soul.

Sincerely,

Glenn

Glenn Stresman

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

Building Community One Random Act of Kindness at a Time

Random Act of Kindness Day logoFor the past month, the Community Foundation has been promoting Nov. 12 as Random Acts of Kindness Day. I see a random act of kindness as a wonderful way to touch the life of another person. In turn that act cultivates community by promoting interaction between our residents, making our region a better place for all.

A few people have asked about the necessity of having to legislate kindness. My reply has been that we are not telling people to be kind; rather we are celebrating the many acts of kindness that happen every day, especially in the Windsor – Essex County area. We believe that sharing the many stories builds a strong sense of community needed for sustainability.

Since we have been promoting Random Acts of Kindness Day, different people have told us about previous experiences with similar programs. Cindy Rivait talked about bringing the program to Windsor in the late 1990s. Mayor Francis spoke about a “random acts of kindness” program sponsored by the Windsor Roseland Rotary Club. Janet Kelly shared information about the Windsor Family Credit Union’s Random Acts of Kindness involvement by employees at their branches for several years.

The Community Foundation appreciates that we are building the next level for a tradition that has been in place here for at least a decade. We are excited about how the program has been received this year. We are very appreciative of the generosity of our sponsors and we look forward to their continued involvement as we continue to build community one Random Act of Kindness at a time. For more information about our sponsors, visit our website at www.wecf.ca/kindness.html.

Sincerely,

Glenn

Glenn Stresman, Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and has over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

Additional Random Act of Kindness websites to visit:

The Pulse of our Community

As many of you are aware, the deadline for submitting applications for our Fall grant round has just passed. Now we are in the process of reviewing them.

Grant applications are a window into the body and soul of the community. Not only do the applications give us a sense of the resources that local charities need to meetcommunity needs, they give us an image of the hopes and aspirations of our area’s voluntary sector. The Toronto Community Foundation realized this several years ago and used the applications process to start a very successful program called Vital Signs®. Watch for Vital Signs® reports for communities across Canada to be released next month – they will make for interesting and informative reading.

This past week, the United Way of Windsor — Essex released its 2009 Community Well-Being Report. The second in a series of reports, this year’s edition also speaks to the physical and mental health of our community. I commend the authors of the report for their work for they have looked deeply into the physical reality of living in this area. As an example, the report details the increased incidence of asthma in Windsor and Essex. That statistic, alone, is a call to action for this grandparent to work at removing airborne pollutants and keeping them out of the environment that my grandchildren breathe.

Going forward, there is a lot to do for all of the charities in this region. The Community Foundation is pleased to provide financial assistance to as many of these charities as our resources allow.

As soon as the grant review process is completed, it will be time to write next month’s article. That blog posting will give me the opportunity to talk more about a new Community Foundation initiative called, “Random Acts of Kindness.” Until then …

Sincerely,

Glenn

Glenn Stresman, Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation

Glenn Stresman is the Executive Director of the WindsorEssex Community Foundation and is Certified Fund Raising Executive with over 20 years experience in both writing and evaluating grant applications.

New Website and Blog

WindsorEssex Community Foundation launches new website and “Charitable Thoughts” Blog!  Check it out at http://www.wecf.ca

The website features an interactive photo/video gallery, snap-shots of grants we have provided, a log-in for grant seekers and information on the Foundation and how to get involved in our community.  The site is fully integrated with our social media portals, an interactive community calendar and our newly created BLOG – Charitable Thoughts.

BLOG “Charitable Thoughts”: will be updated monthly with articles relevant to the non-profit community in Windsor-Essex.  Glenn Stresman, Foundation Executive Director, board members and other select community leaders will provide content of interest to donors and community leaders.