Staff Blog

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

President's Update

Posted by: Dan Smith on 5/16/2018

Our mission is to inspire giving and bring people and resources together to make a difference in Vermont.  Sometimes, in the day to day, it is easy to under-appreciate the mutuality of our work. In the course of trying to inspire, we find inspiration. On Thursday, April 26, I had two really unique opportunities that I want to share.

In the morning, I shared time at a session for the National Outdoor Recreation Conference with Ross Sneyd from National Life and Sharon Yazowski from the LA-based Levitt Foundation. My remarks focused on the opportunity gap and the role of outdoor recreation in building strong communities, as well as the practical aspects of working with a community foundation. Ross focused on the Main Street Grants program. The Levitt Foundation was the showstopper. Levitt sponsors free concerts across the country with a focus on building community. They are currently working with Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury on a summer concert series. Sharon’s remarks did a remarkable job stitching together the role of open public spaces with the theory of social capital that is created when spaces are “activated.” Activate is a remarkably desensitized word for the joy and connection that flowed through Sharon’s presentation about Levitt’s work.

That evening I co-presented with Dick Ober from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation at Kendal at Hanover, a retirement and assisted living community. Through dinner before and during the Q&A, there was no shortage of mutual inspiration as people shared stories and asked questions about the role and potential of philanthropy. It was a sweet reminder that our everyday work is connected to the kinds of things that people spend their lives hoping to be able to do. I shared the story of a recent fundholder who wanted to separate his fund into two separate funds, one named for his recently deceased wife. In the course of my conversation with the donor it became apparent that the desired change was rooted in two things: First, his knowledge of his wife’s unique passion for the advancement of women and girls. Second, I got the sense that it was rooted in the knowledge that a fund with the Community Foundation, named for her, means that in perpetuity, someone working hard in the field will open an envelope, feel that passion and be connected to her legacy. It is not different than making a promise to light a candle and keep it lit. Living up to those legacies and honoring that trust is both gratifying and inspiring. Let’s not to miss the opportunities to appreciate the mutuality of this work.   

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