In the Community
Planning for the Next ChapterDecember 10, 2014
As we approach the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s 20th Birthday in September, we have a lot to celebrate! More than 26,000 individual gifts have been received totaling more than $70 million. At the same time, more than 1,000 charitable organizations in the Lowcountry and beyond as well as hundreds of students have been awarded nearly $53 million in grants and scholarships since our beginning in 1994. Along the way, we have built combined assets of almost $70 million and in so doing we have earned the trust of the community as a steward of resources and a partner with other nonprofit organizations achieving their missions.
We believe at the core of this success is the ability to adapt and change as needed. The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry believes that high functioning nonprofits evaluate and positively grow their organization with timely business and strategic plans. While a business plan establishes a structure that balances revenue and expenditures, and creates a solid basis for operations, a strategic plan sets the direction and establishes priorities for the entire organization. The plan provides a mechanism whereby staff and resources are aligned toward achieving goals and programmatic outcomes. An effective plan facilitates both internal and external organizational communications and simplifies decision-making given the focus on specific goals and priorities.
After an almost year-long process, the Community Foundation is putting the finishing touches on our next three-year strategic plan and we want to share our process as well as a broad-brush overview of the new plan, with more details to follow in the upcoming months.
First, we know that an effective strategic plan includes the following:
- Assessment of stakeholder and community needs including input from constituents, staff and board.
- Clear goals, measureable objectives and annual work plans with assigned staff and/or board responsibilities.
- Identification of resources, costs and staff capacity necessary to achieve objectives.
Our strategic planning task force, led by trustee John Weymouth, synthesized this information along with reams of other material – both empirical and anecdotal – to give structure to the planning process. And after a day-long, facilitated retreat with board and staff, the “bones” of the plan were formed.
“The Strategic Planning Task Force of the Community Foundation found much to be proud of in their planning sessions,” said John Weymouth, trustee. “It was time for us to build on the strengths we have created and the trust we have garnered to move into new areas which will take the Community Foundation to the next level in our organizational development.”
At last, the Community Foundation’s trustees settled on three very bold elements to make up its new plan:
- We aspire to identify, inform and guide donors and potential donors, with the goal of increasing impact on community needs.
- We aspire to be the premiere marketplace for the exchange of valuable knowledge regarding Lowcountry nonprofit organizations and community needs.
- We aspire to prepare nonprofit organizations to better meet community needs.
From here, elements of the plan were assigned to staff and standing committees to add the detail which included action steps and measurable outcomes – the “meat” on the bones - and to determine what resources would be needed to achieve success.
Some of the “meat” includes:
- A new online database offering comprehensive profiles of the region’s nonprofit organizations.
- Building interactive and collaborative relationships with our donors, our partners and the community at large.
- Expanding our Strengthening Nonprofits initiative to include knowledge sharing in areas such as fiscal policy, fund development, staffing and capacity-building.
In the broadest sense, the plan will strengthen the Community Foundation’s focus by tracking positive impact through its grantmaking, engaging donors in critical issues and collaborating with funding and civic partners.
“The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, like the more than 700 community foundations across the nation, embraces our leadership responsibility to move beyond building assets and into building communities; and this plan is our expression of that commitment,” said Perry Washington, Chairman of the Board.
The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s founders taught us that time doesn’t stand still and that the Community Foundation must change with the times to meet new needs - the needs and dreams of its donors, the needs and missions of its nonprofit partners and the needs and aspirations of its Lowcountry community. We believe that in our 20-year history there has never been a more important moment for us to focus on using all of our philanthropic capital—social, moral, intellectual, reputational and financial—to build a better Lowcountry and encourage all of our friends and neighbors to LIVE GENEROUSLY.