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Hilary Dunne Ferrone: Doing Good, Well 1/10/17

Happy New Year! For many, this is a time of personal reassessment when we look for a fresh take and perhaps make a few positive adjustments in our lives. Just as this is a good practice for ourselves, it’s a beneficial practice of funders and nonprofits, too.

Community foundations in particular best serve their region by measuring their success, ensuring they’re addressing a community’s critical needs and checking on the health of the nonprofits they support.

These foundations serve small and large communities across our country. They support nonprofits and the people who fund them; essentially, they invest other people’s philanthropic dollars and use the interest to make grants to organizations that improve and support a community.

A community foundation should represent a wide variety of ideas and interests of individual donors who have united in a common purpose - the bettering of their community both now and in the future. A foundation is governed by a local board of directors chosen for their knowledge of the region and designed to be representative of a broad cross-section of the population.

In addition to supporting new or existing programs of other non-profit organizations and agencies, a community foundation can also serve as a convener, bringing diverse opinions and players together for the good of the whole community; they also work to build the capacity of nonprofit staff and board members. (http://www.cfpartner.org/whatis.htm)

Like the promise of a new year, change in leadership is a perfect time for assessment and renewal of an organization’s mission, values and goals. In 2016, both the Community Foundation of the Greater Capital Region and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation hired new leaders. In taking the reins of the foundations -- which had been led successfully by their predecessors -- both new presidents separately expressed the goal to identify new ways to support the region’s changing needs. Berkshire Taconic has just undertaken such an assessment. (https://www.cfgcr.org/cms/upload/pdf/CFGCR_Eberle_Announcement_web.pdf; http://www.berkshiretaconic.org/bLearnbAboutBTCF/BTCFNews/ViewArticle/tabid/96/ArticleId/208/Press-Release-Berkshire-Taconic-Announces-New-President-Peter-Taylor.aspx)

A community study entails convening interested community members, nonprofit leaders, donors, human service providers and educators to discuss trends in the community; this is an extensive process that can take months to do properly. Many communities in our region are experiencing an uptick in the number of people needing social assistance, and a dramatic increase in opioid addiction: two issues worthy of immediate attention. These pressures are combined with an aging population and changing attitudes toward and support of community institutions. The findings of an assessment should inform the funding decisions of a community foundation and provide direction as to how it can best support the needs of local nonprofits and the people they serve.

Any commitment to change, whether personal or professional, can be daunting, but adjusting to demographic and economic change is critical to the success of a community foundation.

Hilary Dunne Ferrone has worked in the nonprofit and government sectors for the past 20 years, including serving on the policy team in the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. She currently serves on the board of the Fund for Columbia County and is co-chair of Berkshire Country Day School’s capital campaign.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors.  They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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