It's Been a Lovely Cruise


“It’s Been a Lovely Cruise” is one of my favorite Jimmy Buffet tunes and it’s been in my head for the past six months as we’ve wrapped up our formal relationship with the Grand Victoria Foundation and the “Communityworks” project.


Last week we received a publication from the Grand Victoria Foundation (GVF) highlighting the 8-year Communityworks partnership.


Nancy Fishman is the GVF Executive Director and her opening welcome letter in the book states, “We meant Communityworks to be a game changer.  And the evidence shows we’re succeeding.  Local philanthropy is now a strong and growing sector in Illinois.  Most of the foundations that joined Communityworks have been transformed (their words, not ours).  They have become robust institutions, with the endowments and staffing to undertake serious strategic work.”


She wraps up with, “Because success breeds more success – because enthusiasm is contagious – because endowments grow over time – the community foundations are now positioned for growth and leadership over decades to come.   Nothing can stop it now.”


We’ve updated you on our progress over the years, but it’s exciting to read this booklet to see the collective impact of Communityworks and the work of our partner community foundations around Illinois:


  • Before Communityworks, we community foundations had collective endowments of $20,500,00; now we have $225,000,000;
  • At the beginning of Communityworks, most of us had a staff of 1; now we average staffs of 4;
  • “Leverage” is a hot term in today’s economy. Over the course of Communityworks, the community foundations have collectively leveraged $734,850 of in-kind services and over $7.9 million in hard dollars;
  • Specifically, the Communityworks foundations collectively have granted $3.5 million in Workforce Development (25% from Communityworks and 75% from leverage dollars); $3.7 million in Early Childhood Care & Education (40% from Communityworks and 60% from leveraged dollars); and $1.1 million in Land Use & Protection (40% from Communityworks and 60% from leveraged dollars);
  • When Communityworks started in 2003, only 9 community foundations had operating endowments totaling a collective $3,664; now all 13 community foundations have operating endowments totaling a collective $20 million;


The transformation in Grundy County is equally impressive.  When we joined Communityworks, Grundy County had so many organizations of shapes and sizes operating in their own silos with little collaboration among them.


Now we are ripe with collaborations and networks: the Grundy Partnership for Children, the Grundy County Area Planners, the Behavioral Health Alliance, the Intentional Giving Team, the Grundy Transit Stakeholders, a more robust Grundy County Interagency Council and Business Education Council, and a newly-formed Special Connections for our disability community.  We cannot take credit for all of these networks, but we believe we had a hand in raising the bar of expectations for collaboration.


Locally, the in-kind and hard dollars that we have leveraged is impressive:

  • The Grand Victoria Foundation invested over $3 million in the Community Foundation of Grundy County, including match dollars and annual operating dollars; however, it doesn’t include the money that the Grand Victoria Foundation spent on technical assistance, speakers, meals, lodging, conference calls, and consultants, which has made an immeasurable impact on our capacity as an organization and prepared us to be the leaders in Grundy County that we have become;
  • Local donors established a collective $1.5 million in endowed funds here at the Community Foundation of Grundy County which helped us receive part of the Grand Victoria support listed above;
  • Our Communityworks grantmaking leveraged $525,000 in additional hard dollar grants and $133,700 of in-kind grant dollars to some of partners, including Jump Start and the Grundy Transit System.


And while it’s exciting to talk about the dollars leveraged for Grundy County, we’d like to repeat that Communityworks has been about so much more than the money.  It’s been about our Foundation growing as an organization with the financial and governance capacity to be a strong leader in Grundy County; it’s about our fellow non-profits, including the municipalities, who benefit from our grants and networks; it’s about the residents of Grundy County who now have greater access to transportation, developmental screenings, back-to-school physicals, career mentors, and non-profit services as a result of Communityworks asking us to get involved with early childhood care & education, workforce development, and land use & protection.


Another line from the song is, “I’m sorry it’s ended…oh, it’s sad, but it’s true.  It’s been a lovely cruise.”


Yes, it’s sad, but it really isn’t over.  The work of the Community Foundation of Grundy is just beginning and with our endowments, governance, and leadership, we will forever be able to improve Grundy County’s ability to be a great place to work, live, recreate, worship, educate our children, and raise our families.