Asking 'why' can improve your organization

by Julianne Buck

Executive Director, CFGC

Morris Herald-News

Published: Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 5:30 a.m. CDT


“Why?” This a question I ask – often.


It’s not a critical “Why the heck do you do THAT?” It’s an understanding “Why do you do it? What are the underlying factors that cause your organization to do what it does?”


The Community Foundation of Grundy County improves the quality of life through leadership and philanthropy, therefore we ask questions all the time. We want to know who’s doing what – and why. Not so that we can be critical, but so that we can be linkers (if that’s even a word). We “bridge people who care with causes that matter.”


By asking questions and listening, we better understand the needs and solutions happening in Grundy County. I’ve seen a meme on Facebook saying, “Don’t listen to respond; listen to understand.” I don’t know if it’s a quote from Stephen Covey or the Dalai Lama, but if it’s on the internet, it must be true.


One way we listen and link is by convening and participating in a number of networks around Grundy County. These include the Grundy County Interagency Council, Grundy Partnership for Children, Grundy County Area Planners, Behavioral Health Alliance, Senior Network, Business Education Council, and Community Organizations Active in Disaster.


By listening and linking organizations, activities and projects, we help make the flow of information more efficient, thereby allowing those organizations to complete their work more efficiently and improving the quality of life in Grundy County.


It’s not a massive, earth-shattering improvement in our quality of life, but baby steps matter, especially in our rural county with ever-decreasing state and federal resources.


We can also use philanthropy to improve the quality of life, again through listening and linking.


We recently linked Illinois Valley Industries, Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity, and a donor. Why? Because the residents of Narvick House needed a place to store their bicycles out of the weather, especially since many of the residents rely on their bicycles for work. Also, Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity is looking for more projects for their “A Brush with Kindness” program.


So we linked those two organizations with a donor fund here at the community foundation and the shed was built. Narvick Brothers provided the materials and labor for the concrete pad, Habitat provided the volunteers for the shed construction, and Ron and Jackie Wohlwend provided a grant from their donor-advised fund to buy the materials.


A win-win for everyone – especially the residents of Narvick House.


We also like to use our nonpolitical leadership strengths to provide learning opportunities for others – again to improve the quality of life in Grundy County. Two events this fall are:


  • The 11th annual Grundy County Growth Conference (GC2) will be from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 21 at Morris Country Club. This year’s theme is “Tools for Taxing Bodies,” and we invite staff and board of all taxing bodies in Grundy County to attend. This includes county, municipalities, townships, and school, fire and library districts.


Sessions include referendums, retail development, road networks, shared services and grantwriting. The purpose of GC2 is not to tell elected and appointed officials what decisions to make, but to provide training, education, and awareness so that decisions are made based on best practices.


GC2 sponsors to date include D Construction, Edward Jones Kristi Bennington, Michael Mattingly, Big R, and Ken Goodwin & Associates.


  • The second event this fall is for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. Julie Wilkinson of the Greater Joliet Area YMCA is helping me design a half-day workshop to celebrate National Philanthropy Day and will include the topics of philanthropy, fundraising, planned giving, nonprofit capacity and storytelling.


The event will be in the afternoon of Nov. 15 at Morris Country Club. We invite all nonprofits in the region to attend, including organizations, churches and taxing bodies. That evening we will host an exclusive dinner event for professional advisers in the region. This includes attorneys, accountants and wealth advisers.


Please pencil in the Nov. 15 date now, with more information to come!


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