In the Community
How Do You Define Assets?December 08, 2009
In the community foundation field, the one question that is most often asked as we are compared to others, or as folks look for measures of our success, is “What are your assets?” While there is no doubt what is normally meant by that question, I cannot bear the thought that the most important measure of success is related to dollars under management.
Here’s the short list of assets that run through my head, and which I’m happy to recite, whenever that question is put to me:
Asset #1: Reputation. When the stock market dives, so do our dollars therein invested. But, over time, through more gifts or recovered investment returns, the dollars can be regained. But our reputation, whether defined by ethics, accountability, transparency, honesty, approachability, caring, fair play, legality of operations, character, integrity, etc., cannot be as easily rebuilt once lost. So, in my mind, reputation is one of our most important assets.
Asset #2: Leadership. Whether it is the folks that walk in the door at 8 AM (or 7:00 or 6:30), and leave at 5 PM (or 6:30 or 7:00), or the folks that deliberate the future of the organization around the Board table, our people resources are critical to our success. Fortunately, I would put the staff and board and committee volunteers of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry up against any others, anywhere. These people are intelligent, enthusiastic, mission-driven, creative and hard-working. They care about the work; they care about the Lowcountry; they care about each other.
Asset #3: Nonprofit Partners. The nonprofit organizations that serve the Lowcountry are on the ground, working hard to meet local needs every day. These nonprofits often cannot do their good work without support. We cannot do our work without good projects/organizations to fund. No matter how many dollars are available, they are of little value without strong, dedicated, hard-working, visionary nonprofit organizations.
Asset #4: A Community of Donors. The many individuals and organizations that contribute to the hundreds of funds at the Community Foundation are fueling the work. Some have a personal vision of what needs to be accomplished to improve the quality of life here and in other places, and have put their dollars to work to realize that vision. Others trust in the knowledge of our many advisory committees and our Board of Trustees to have studied the needs and to make knowledgeable decisions about where the dollars will have the most positive effect. In either case, without donor vision, caring and dollars, the work would be anemic at best and nonexistent at worst.
Other Assets: Of course, there are many more things I could discuss. There is the back-up tape that leaves the office daily and which guards the data. There are the files upon files (whether electronic or paper) of knowledge and information which is consistently gathered so that our work may be well-informed. And, oh, by the way, there are the financial assets.
The Community Foundation’s leadership assures that they are carefully invested, monitored, and spent as wisely as possible. But when you think of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, don’t think of it as a pot of money surrounded by people who want some. Think instead of its positive reputation, enlightened leadership, effective nonprofit partners, and those with a strong philanthropic spirit who support the work. These are the critical assets needed as we strive to perform our mission of “…strengthening community by connecting people, resources and needs.” These are the everyday matters that make every DAY matter.
Denise K. Spencer