1 You are approaching your fourth anniversary on the job at the Community Foundation. How does Fort Wayne compare with other communities you have worked in when it comes to philanthropic participation?
Hard to believe in January it will be my fourth anniversary as president and CEO at the Community Foundation and my family moving to Fort Wayne from Iowa. We love Fort Wayne!
This is a common question in communities – are we as charitable and philanthropic as others? Fort Wayne and Allen County is so fortunate to have all three elements of philanthropy – time, talent and treasure – working together so effectively. Most communities have one, maybe two of those happening; in my opinion, Fort Wayne is one of the most philanthropic communities I've ever been a part of.
2 The Community Foundation stepped up to help meet pandemic needs. What were some of the initiatives the foundation supported?
The pandemic has been and remains a devastating force. However, it also brought out the best in us in terms of people and organizations pulling together to serve those in need.
We were honored to partner with Arts United to support local artists and venues through the Artist Relief Fund; we partnered with the Ash family to support local restaurants, coffee shops and food trucks through the Ash Hometown Prosperity Fund; we were early to support United Way's Emergency Relief Fund; and now we are part of a consortium of foundations working to support vaccination efforts through our Operation Vaccination Fund. Meanwhile, we continue to have several donors step in and support other needs. The response has been amazing and humbling.
3 The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy over the past two years. What effect has it had on local charitable giving?
I can only respond based on what the Community Foundation has experienced with our donors and grants out to the community. We have had record highs throughout 2020 and 2021 in donations to the community foundation and grants out to nonprofits. We see no signs of that slowing down, again a testament to the generosity of our community.
I do want to give credit to our nonprofit community for their creativity in fundraising and programming. They have responded in bold and innovative ways to meet these unprecedented times, many changing their business model altogether.
4 The Community Foundation's approach has changed in terms of supporting projects such as Electric Works. How and why have you made those changes?
The high profile of Electric Works, our support of it and ultimately our investment in it seems like a new approach. However, the truth is we've been supporting major projects for several years. Most recently those include the Riverfront and Promenade Park and The Landing.
This type of investing is known as “impact investing,” where portions of our investment portfolio are invested in local “main street” projects instead of Wall Street. These projects are important to our community and essential to improving our quality of life for not only those of us living here, but also those considering moving to Fort Wayne. Credit goes to our board of directors for having the vision and courage to make these decisions on how to best deploy our financial resources for the betterment of the community.
5 Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. What's your wish for the community's response to this annual day of giving?
I encourage everyone who is capable of financially supporting a local nonprofit, please do so! We are blessed to have so many nonprofits doing great work oftentimes behind the scenes. Giving Tuesday is a special day set aside to say “thank you” to those organizations doing the heavy lift down in the trenches day in and day out. I can assure you every dollar counts no matter the amount.