Building Capacity in Our Philanthropic Sector



Today’s donors expect involvement in how their dollars get expended, a major shift from decades past, according to local philanthropic leaders. The subject was discussed at the most recent installment of SB2, Good Hand: Building Capacity in Our Philanthropic Sector, where panelists stressed that organizations who fail to work with those giving funds may see the resources head someplace else.

Veronica Brandon Miller, Goodwill Manasota Foundation vice president, said she witnessed that years ago when the Smithsonian lost a $30 million gift to the Kennedy Center because curators initially did not want to acquiesce to a donor's desires regarding the theme of an exhibit. “You have to be a part of that shift in donors’ thinking,” she said, noting many giving today contribute hard-earned dollars, not inherited family money, and therefore want more certainty about how that funding gets used.

Ultimately, those giving today want concrete results, not just a nebulous feeling they did something good simply in writing a check. “A lot of donors care about changing lives and the impact of giving,” said Stacey Corley, Ringling College of Art and Design vice president for advancement.

Roxie Jerde, president of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, said those working in the independent sector today need to work closely and listen intently to those willing or donating. “Bring great questions and what it is they want to achieve,” she said.

Similarly, Manatee Community Foundation Executive Director Susie Bowie said her organization’s top goal remains honoring intent. “Talking with donors, we really want to understand what they want to achieve through legacy funds, and work closely with many donors while they are living,” she said.

Heidi Brown, president and of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the Suncoast, said that makes it all the more important to zero in on specific needs to ensure resources get leveraged to the best ability to serve those giving dollars and those benefiting from philanthropy. “If we are spread too thin or working in areas where we do not have the expertise and praise, then I’m not certain we’re serving the community or the donor,” she said.

The demand for effective use of dollars in turn requires nonprofit leaders then to stay up to date with the most innovative practices utilized and to interface with the giving community as effectively as possible, according to keynote speaker David Odahowski, president and CEO of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation. “Donors are consumers, and they want the Amazon Prime experience,” he said during his address.

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan: Veronica Miller, Stacey Corley, event sponsor Cool Today's Jaime DiDomenico, David Odahowski, Susie Bowie, Heidi Brown and Roxie Jerde.

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