Keeping the Community in Community Foundations

Community foundations play a major role in communities across the country. They are a vehicle for organized giving that primarily benefits a specific geographic area. They bring together individual donors, local businesses, families, and others to pool their resources and make grants.

Here is how the Austin Community Foundation defines what a community foundation is: A community foundation is a philanthropic vehicle that combines the charitable gifts of many to provide leadership and financial leverage in addressing the current and future needs of the community through various grant making activities designed to improve the lives of the citizens of that community.

And here is what the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis is doing to encourage local residents to give to the foundation, and to have a say in how those funds are granted out to local organizations. They call their campaign GiVE 365. The campaign was launched with the belief that everyone can be a philanthropist. They especially want to engage people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s though anyone can participate. Annual membership is $365, or a dollar a day.

GiVE 365 helps participants to change how they know themselves. When you join GIVE 365 the definition of philanthropist changes. A philanthropist is not someone else. A philanthropist is you and me. Making a commitment to GiVE 365 puts everyday people in the driver’s seat. As long as you can give $365 a year you are in the mix. And it is a mix.

Being a member of GiVE 365 means you give and you grant. You – and the other members of GiVE 365 – get to work together to determine how the funds given should be granted. Now that is an unusual experience for many of us. Usually we – and our organizations – are on the soliciting-side of philanthropy, not the decision-making side. Participating in a donor circle such as GIVE 365 changes the dynamic so that you become a decision-maker.

This is a new program at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and those who participate will help shape the program. To kick it off the foundation matched the first $20,000. We talked with Bob Fockler, the president of the foundation and he said “We are really excited about the prospects for GiVE 365. Memphis has been shown to be a city full of very generous people, yet we are far from a wealthy city. GiVE 365 provides an opportunity for people from virtually all economic backgrounds to have an active part in helping to transform this city. After all, most great things come about as a result of the collective actions of a great many people.”

If you are interested in starting such a program in your community, call your community foundation, ask to speak to a program officer, and tell them you read about what the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis is up to. Be sure to say you want to help make it happen. GIVE 365. It’s worth it!

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