Taking stock, reflecting on years of good community work

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Denise Spencer

This, the last column I will write as president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry Inc., is the most difficult.

Five hundred words is insufficient to say all that is in my heart. But I am compelled to reflect and share some insights.

I'm not going to provide a lot of numbers and accomplishments. The 25th anniversary of the Community Foundation approaches, so I'm certain you will hear much more about that in the year to come.

However, there are some essential characteristics of this organization that are worth mentioning.

1. The Community Foundation can take total and complete credit for nothing. Each and every success is collaboration. Nonprofits cannot do their important work without funding. The Community Foundation cannot do its work without good projects to fund.

Donors and investment consultants and investment managers make the funding possible. Collaboration is encouraged; the Community Foundation walks the talk.

2. The staff is small, but mighty. Twelve people. Twelve people provide service to more than 340 component funds for different purposes. And they attract more.

Fund accounting of this magnitude is an art form. The staff communicates to all constituencies: donors, nonprofits, volunteers and the community at large.

They provide information, training, support and counsel to nonprofits, donors, prospects, potential volunteers and community members of all backgrounds, needs and desires. They assure accreditation and legal and financial compliance.

And they support a strong board of directors with their best knowledge and advice.

3. Former board members care deeply about the organization and stay engaged. When they leave the board, they join the Directors' Council - essentially an alumni association. They receive an e-newsletter every other month to keep them informed.

And when asked to serve - on a committee, a focus group, a special project - they are there. This continued allegiance doesn't happen everywhere. The Community Foundation is blessed indeed.

4. Donor intent is paramount. Not only are donor instructions pursued to the letter as far as the law provides, but significant time is spent at the beginning of a donor relationship, assuring clarity in reflecting donors' passions and needs as new funds are created.

5. This organization is truly the "community's foundation." All in our service area can find a way to intersect with the work. They can find help in volunteering, or making a donation, or establishing a framework for doing their own philanthropy, or receiving a grant or scholarship.

6. When flexibility is required, the Community Foundation is there. Economic downturn? Swift reaction. Hurricane? Immediate response. Large gift? Rapid investment and protection.

This flexibility will be the very thing that will allow the organization to quickly embrace its third president and CEO, Christopher Kerrigan.

And when Chris takes the helm on April 4, he inherits the responsibility for an organization that claims these unique and critical qualities.

As I look forward to the next phase in my life and career, I am excited for Chris, who is blessed indeed to take on this new role. Please make him welcome, support him in his work, and live generously, as I intend to do.

Denise K. Spencer is soon retiring as president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. cf-lowcountry.org

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