Last month I opened a fund at The Community Foundation for the work we are doing around digital mapping and STEM engagement for African-American youth, specifically introducing them to the science and technology of GIS. The fund is the perfect vehicle because of the collaborative nature of the project and the equally collaborative nature of the funding. I have been able to attract grant and sponsorship dollars from Southern California Gas Company and Esri, and private donations from some of my very good friends, colleagues, and community leaders. So far, those resources have introduced over 100 children and young adults to the power of geospatial technology. That includes the young women of the Ignite Leadership Academy who are currently learning to use GIS to solve some of the problems in our community during their Saturday school program run by Shirley Coates’ Society of Extraordinary Women.
The collaborative work we are doing through our field of interest fund – like the hundreds of other funds stewarded by The Community Foundation – demonstrates the tremendous impact and unique importance of community foundations throughout this country. This week, we celebrate Community Foundation Week, our chance to share and reflect on this charitable work. Though you may not yet know your local community foundation, you’ve likely felt its impact.
That’s because The Community Foundation of Inland Southern California and more than 780 other community foundations across the country help to bring donors and residents together. Community foundations unite their efforts behind the efforts that will help the places we call home continue to flourish and grow.
As a member of our community foundation’s board of directors, I have been extremely proud of our Youth Grant makers program and led the effort to start a Native Youth Grant makers program in the region. Our first class, a small group of high school students from the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, just started and we’re looking forward to hearing positive stories from the youth involved. I also joined with other community-minded women to start The Community Foundation’s first Women’s Giving Circle, a group committed to improving the economic opportunities for women in the region.
As we enter the giving season, America’s generosity surges. Millions of people from every background will be looking to give back to the communities that have supported them. They’ll also look to ensure that their generosity —however they choose to give—will have the most impact. That’s why so many of them will choose to give to a community foundation.
Community foundations accept gifts of various sizes and types from private citizens, local corporations, other foundations and government agencies. Nearly every type of gift can be contributed. A gift to your local community foundation is really an investment in the future of your community. We like to say that community foundations are “here for good.” At The Community Foundation we don’t think about the next election or business cycle, we think about the next generation and the one after that.
That can seem like a daunting task, but it’s one that we all share. During Community Foundation Week, I hope you’ll join us in recognizing our collective impact and the difference we can make together.