The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way is on the brink of an exciting and expanded vision to build the capacity of our community and region through philanthropic giving. A key part of this new vision is our new name. The board of directors of the United Way and Community Foundation of Northwest Iowa recently voted to change the name of the organization to the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way. The reason for the change is twofold:s to more accurately reflect that our organization's mission - to serve Fort Dodge and the surrounding area, and secondly to more effectively brand our community foundation in new and broader terms.
In June, our board of directors approved our new mission and vision statements that expand the role and purpose of the organization. By doing so, we hope to become a more donor-driven and donor-responsive organization. Our mission is very clear - to serve as a catalyst for charitable giving - developing charitable resources to support important community programs, services and initiatives that will benefit the public good and improve our quality of life. Our long-term vision is to provide positive and innovative leadership and significant resources to improve our quality of life and help Fort Dodge/Webster County become a place where people will want to live, work and raise their families.
On May 8, the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way received official notice from the national Council on Foundations that it met the Council's rigorous National Standards for certification as a community foundation. Currently in Iowa, there are only 12 community foundations that are recognized by the Council on Foundations as meeting National Standards, which signifies that the community foundation is committed to excellence for its community and donors.
In July of 2007, the United Way of Greater Fort Dodge merged with the Community Foundation of Fort Dodge and North Central Iowa. The goal of this merger was to efficiently leverage our resources and develop a progressive organization that would serve as the hub for philanthropic giving for Fort Dodge, Webster County and north central Iowa. Currently, we are the only United Way organization in America that has merged with a community foundation to enhance the potential for community-based philanthropic giving. Our United Way organization has been in Fort Dodge for several decades. The Community Foundation is a newer organization that became operational in 2002. As we approach our two-year anniversary, the time was right for us to expand our horizons to make a greater and more lasting impact in our community and region.
Many people are not familiar with the purpose of a community foundation. Nationally, community foundations have a long tradition of helping bring about positive and effective change in their communities. The first community foundation was started in 1914. There are now more than 700 throughout the United States. A community foundation is a tax-exempt public charity that enables people with philanthropic interests to easily and effectively support the issues they care about either immediately or through their estates. Community foundations do this by helping individuals, families and businesses establish charitable funds to which they may contribute a variety of assets to support community projects or nonprofit organizations.
Community foundations also play an important leadership role in their communities. They convene groups including donors, nonprofit leaders, business leaders and elected officials, to work together on community problem-solving and identify ways to improve quality of life and advance the common good. As citizens, none of us know what the needs of our community will be in 10, 20 or 50 years, yet we do know that tomorrow's local leaders will inevitably face new challenges that will impact our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. To solve local problems with local solutions, they will need local resources. This is the reason why community foundations exist and why they represent one of the fastest growing areas of philanthropy in our nation.
Health and well-being
Education and lifelong learning
Recreation and leisure
Cultural and historical advancement
FDCFUW board of directors
Susan Ahlers Leman (president)
Pat Goedkin (vice president)
Dave Gamet (secretary)
Scott McQueen (treasurer)
Our Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way is no exception. We aim to build charitable funds, both endowed and non-endowed, so resources will be available to help our community develop to its full potential. Community foundations in general are complex organizations because they serve a broad audience focused on a wide range of issues. Yet, in simple terms, our daily work is organized in three basic categories:
1. We promote ''community'' and charitable giving. The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way is all about ''community'' and helping Fort Dodge and Webster County become a strong, vital and economically prosperous community. We work closely with individuals, families, business leaders and others, to help match their philanthropic goals with community needs. Donations to the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way can be invested in several types of funds to support the donor's charitable goals. The Community Foundation offers a full menu of giving options so donors can direct their gifts to issues they care about or to wherever the needs are the greatest. We help donors set up funds to maximize their tax advantages and impact the community - today, tomorrow and forever.
2. We manage funds and make grants. The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way uses experienced investment professionals to invest and manage its funds. Our board of directors is made up of highly respected, community-minded citizens who provide leadership, grantmaking and oversight of our funds. We go beyond simply making grants that advance charitable activities. We also identify current and emerging issues, contribute resources to address those needs, and provide grants to support community betterment projects and organizations that are working in areas that advance our mission.
3. We provide leadership and collaborate with other sectors of our community. The Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way works closely with leaders from business, government, education, human services and other nonprofit organizations to develop and implement initiatives that bring about positive change, address pressing issues and improve quality of life. We develop necessary resources and help connect the inspiration, innovation and philanthropic intentions of generous, community-minded citizens with progressive, long-term community impact projects.
Over the past year, the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way granted more than $1 million in support of 42 different nonprofit organizations and community projects. These grants come from funds administered through the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and from funds generated by the 2009 United Way campaign. Our immediate objective is to raise awareness about how the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way can help citizens support their local community. This can be achieved by supporting the annual United Way campaign or by considering a larger endowment or legacy gift that can make a real difference in our community today and for decades to come.
In today's struggling economy, many communities have lost sight of their own capacity and their belief in their own ability to solve problems and overcome challenges. Often the difference between one community prospering and growing and another community declining is the quality of leadership, the willingness of citizens to come together with courage to act, and the availability of resources to invest in community betterment. Community foundations help summon the community's capacity to use their own talent and resources to deal with challenging problems and turn obstacles into opportunities to help their community reach its full potential.
For Fort Dodge and Webster County to become a vital, prosperous and thriving community, we cannot rely on leadership and support from Des Moines or Washington, D.C., to do it for us. The resources, the leadership, and the initiative to take action will have to come from local citizens and leaders who truly care about their community and are committed to making a difference by investing their time, talent and resources to make it happen.
Citizens who are willing to invest their resources in our community are, in fact, ''building a bridge to the future'' for themselves and for future generations. Three things our donors have in common are a love for their community, a desire to give something back, and the hope that their charitable support can make a real impact. When charitable-minded people want to make a difference, the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way can help them find suitable ways to give so they can enhance our community, improve our quality of life and touch the lives of citizens, youth and families - today and in the future.
For more information on how the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way can assist you, please call our office at 573-3179 or stop in and see us. Our offices are located in the Wells Fargo Building, 822 Central Ave., Suite 405, in Fort Dodge.
Susan Ahlers Leman is president of the board of directors of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way. Randy Kuhlman is the organization's chief executive officer.