New Model of Community Foundation

I just returned from “pahking my cah in Hahvah yahd.”  I was in Boston last week for the Council on Foundations’ Community Foundations annual conference.


The event is always jam-packed with seminars and workshops on all types of topics.  Some topics are basic for all not-for-profit organizations, such as board governance, marketing, and fiscal oversight.  Other topics are specific to community foundations, such as working with professional advisors, youth in philanthropy, and updates in charity-related federal tax codes.


As always, some of the presentations are over my head – our community foundation is too small and too young to experience the scenarios we’re learning to address.  On the other hand, it’s a fantastic feeling to talk with colleagues from across the nation who ask me for advice about how to conduct public meetings and make an impact in the community!


Come to find out, many of the older, established community foundations in the country have existed for many years as a conduit for accepting donor funds and granting them back into the community.  True, that was the purpose of community foundations.


However, a new model of community foundation has emerged – one that actively engages the community in public discussion about issues, then directs the funds accordingly.  So you can imagine our surprise and excitement when we discovered that the Morris Community Foundation has been acting in the new model – pretty much without even knowing it!


For us, the ultimate in public discussion occurred this past Monday night as we debuted “Connecting the Visions – a CommunityWorks Impact Plan for Morris and Grundy County.”  We hosted 60+ guests in the Holiday Inn banquet rooms to present an executive summary for how we plan to maintain and improve the quality of life in Grundy County through philanthropic strategies addressing the issues of early childhood care & education, workforce development, and land use & protection.


Actually, Monday night was the wrap-up of “Phase I” of the CommunityWorks project.  While meeting for two years to identify issues and brainstorm about projects was great, now the real fun begins in “Phase II” as we start to fund and implement projects to address the issues we’ve identified.  It’s always great to see our labors come to fruition!


The first “Connecting the Visions” project will be the first-ever Grundy County Growth Conference (GC2) on Friday, November 17th, at First Christian Church.  This event will bring together land owners, elected officials, developers, and advocacy groups to establish cooperation for planning the balanced growth of our county.  The main topic of the 2006 GC2 will be stormwater management, but other topics will also be addressed.  Please mark your calendar for this inaugural event!


In closing, I’d like to publicly thank the members of the CommunityWorks Advisory Committee who have met diligently for the past two years to develop this impact plan.  Their expertise, patience, and cooperation have created an impact plan that is strong enough to live forever, but flexible enough to take advantage of new opportunities.


We welcome everyone to take a look at our plan and give us your input.  Please call me at 941-0852 or e-mail me at [email protected] for a copy.







CommunityWorks Advisory Committee:

Richard Allen                                   Retired engineer

John Almer                           Grundy County Board

Chris Borgstrom                   McGrath Office Equipment

Rev. Bob Claus                    First Presbyterian Church

Noreen Dollinger                 Dollinger Farms

Dan Duffy                             Grundy Economic Development Council

Dennis Hackett                    Retired, First Midwest Bank

Jen Hamer                            USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Beth Hobby                           Retired, Big Brothers Big Sisters

Arthur Hornsby                     Retail consultant

Debbie Jo Kinsella              University of Illinois Extension

Joe Kowsky                           Morris Marathon Canoe Club

Natalie Mahler                      Grundy County Soil & Water Conservation District

Betty Jo Milner                      Realtor

Ann Parrish-Rzasa              JJC Workforce Services

Kristie Polk                            Grundy Area Vocational Center

Caroline Portlock                 Grundy County Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Paula Steffen                       Child Care Resource & Referral

John Swezy                          Alderman, City of Morris

Valerie Vlk                             Grundy Economic Development Council

Ralph Wolter                         Retired chemical engineer