Demystifying How Gifts Become Vehicles for Change



In the mid-1970s, Saturday morning cartoons were still finding their way. The major networks hadn’t yet fully figured out the powerful connection of children’s entertainment and in-store purchases as they would in the next two decades.  

An early arrival on the children’s television programming scene was Schoolhouse Rock! The animated show ran for six seasons and was heavy on education, especially about science, grammar, economics and civics. One of the most-remembered episodes covered how a bill became a law. It became a classroom staple of social studies teachers for years to come. The story follows a walking, talking bill through the chambers of Congress and to the White House where it is signed into law.

The three-minute piece is very matter-of-fact, absent of politics and makes no assumptions about what a viewer may or may not already know about the legislative system – check it out on YouTube.  

I share this because it reminds me of how I’m often asked just how grants made by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County came into being and what results donors hope to see as a result of a gift made in the name of philanthropy.

In my “Schoolhouse Rock” version of demystifying how a charitable giving can transform our community, this is what I share:

There are three branches of philanthropy: those who dream, those who unite and those who realize. It takes all of us.

Gifts are the vehicle to make change.

Gifts are given on behalf of individuals and families who have a deep sense of caring and responsibility to help with issues close to their hearts.  They want to make the greatest impact possible with their gifts. 

Gifts vary in size. During the Giving Challenge – our community’s annual online giving day that returns in April of next year – the average gift is around $50. Sometimes gifts made through our foundation are 1,000 or 10,000 times that size. The point is that all gifts make a difference, no matter the amount.

Philanthropic giving represents the needs of and wishes for our community. Giving is highly personal. Donors support both what makes their hearts soar and that which breaks their hearts.

When our community foundation is able to bring together like-minded, giving people around different causes, the potential is multiplied for gifts to make a greater difference. That is when we evolve from a community that responds to emergencies (always necessary and possible through Season of Sharing, which knows no season) to a community that changes systems and circumstances that challenge us (the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is one such example).

If there is a change you want to see in our community, please tell me about it. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County exists to improve our region. While “Schoolhouse Rock” teaches us that legislation defines what activities are permissible, charitable giving opens the door to what is possible and achievable. For that, no special session is needed.

Roxie Jerde is president of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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