Staff Blog

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This is a space where Foundation staff share their thoughts and musings on giving and community:

A Believer

Posted by: Stuart Comstock-Gay on 11/12/2012

Congratulations to the community foundation field—99 years old this year. It’s community foundation week right now (yes, there really is such a thing) and I’d like to raise a glass to this work. For me, if it’s not already clear, let me say it here—I’m a big fan. 

It’s worth taking a moment to explain how community foundations work. They are public charities made up of permanent charitable funds created by individuals, families, business, and organizations who share a common interest—improving the quality of life in their community. With the guidance of volunteer boards and professionals with expertise in identifying and addressing community needs, community foundations invest and administer these funds. 

I first started working in community foundations over 15 years ago, when I was hired in New Hampshire. I’ve used a community foundation for my own philanthropy, to support my family’s hometown in southeast Nebraska. The very first community foundation was founded in the city where I grew up - Cleveland. The story of its founding is worth reading. Now there are 700 community foundations across the country, including ours in Vermont. 

And here’s the thing. I deeply believe in this model of philanthropy—this democratic model where the collective power of many creates powerful change. I believe in this idea that together, we are better. I believe in this model, which ensures that folks in the community play a part in figuring out how to address the needs of the community. In 20 years, another group of people will address the needs of 2032, and on and on. I believe that community foundations ensure a vibrant and changing base of support for the things that matter. 

And I’m optimistic about the future. Community foundations across the country are stepping into their roles as leaders, as place-based participants in things that matter. I believe—it’s just a matter of imagining what's possible. And it’s an honor to work with the passionate and thoughtful philanthropists that make up our own family of funds. So here’s a toast to community foundations—long may they prosper!

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