One hundred days into my job – and it is time to relaunch “What’s Stu-ing?” I’ve been writing this blog for more than five years… [See previous posts here.] I’ve had a hiatus since January, but I’m ready to go again. With this Delaware launch, I want to talk a bit about what I’m seeing and where we are going – but I feel compelled to say a few words first about the Brexit vote last week. Here goes…
Like many others, I find myself deeply troubled by the Brexit vote last week. For much of my life, I’ve been committed to the idea that deep love of local community naturally co-exists alongside passion for inclusion and welcoming others.
But this vote, and what seems to be the reason for it, reminds me that it’s hard to blend these sentiments. It requires not just a recognition of differences, but a celebration of differences. It requires us to step outside of our comfort zones. It requires us to see the yearning all people have to live with safety and opportunity and happiness.
The mix of nationalism, malcontent, anxiety and fear illustrated by the Brexit vote is not isolated to England. People are struggling to find themselves in the world, and are too often lashing out at others in response. We must constantly remind ourselves and each other of our universal humanity.
This love of humanity is why I am passionate about our work at the community foundation. Because at our core, we are about engagement and civic mindedness. The root of the word philanthropy is love of humankind. And what I see in the Delaware Community Foundation is lots of that love.
I see generous Delawareans supporting their communities – their local libraries and community centers, their schools. I also see generous Delawareans reaching outside of their immediate communities – driving greater understanding of Islam, working for more educational resources for low-income children, supporting our rapidly growing Hispanic community (see what the Arsht-Cannon Fund has been doing lately), or reaching out through Friendship House to help families facing particularly tough times.
The DCF is a place where love of local community and the passion for inclusion come together. It’s a place where humanity matters most.
For me, it’s been an exciting four months – meeting with so many folks to understand how this passion and caring manifests here in the First State. It’s been an inspiration to learn about the fabulous work Fred Sears has led to support this community of philanthropists and do-ers. I am so grateful to Fred and everybody else who has built this community foundation over the past 30 years.
Thanks to my predecessors, the DCF is an incredibly strong institution and, over the next several months, our task is to figure out how to leverage that strength to keep making Delaware a better place to live and work. While much is still evolving, we are already getting to work on a few new initiatives. Let me share a few thoughts about those….
- First, and most importantly, our focus remains serving individuals and organizations who want to be charitable in Delaware. As we build on the work of Fred Sears and his predecessors, we strive to continuously enhance the donor experience. To help us identify opportunities for improvement, we recently conducted a survey of donor satisfaction and expect to receive results in August.
- In the meantime, we are improving our investment strategy. We know that our investments have been disappointing. Our diverse portfolio mirrors the same investment strategy employed by many large institutional investors for long-term growth against inflation. But with the kinds of market volatility we’ve been seeing, that strategy has just not produced the kind of results we and our fundholders want to see. The DCF Investment Committee is studying ways to update the strategy to improve returns, while still preserving capital over time.
- The Investment Committee also is developing a series of alternative investment pools to give fundholders choices about how funds are invested and managed. As chair of the Mission Investors Exchange, I’m very excited that one of those funds will be a mission-based investing pool, in which the corpus of the fund will be invested to provide both excellent financial returns and direct community benefit. For more information about this national movement, visit missioninvestors.org.
- We are leaning into the new Community Engagement The DCF introduced this initiative in October with the launch of our community indicator project, DelawareFocus.org. Starting with the website and the Delaware Community Focus Council, we are expanding the DCF’s civic leadership role to become a greater source of community knowledge, as well as a convener and facilitator. Over the coming months, we expect to hire a new director to lead this initiative.
Through the Community Engagement initiative, we aspire to: (1) provide new levels of information for donors, to help them achieve their philanthropic goals and maximize the impact of their charitable dollars; (2) provide a high-level dataset about the overall quality of life in Delaware, to be a resource for donors, nonprofits, elected officials and businesses as they pursue their work; and (3) identify opportunities for the DCF to help the community address systemic issues and unmet needs.
So that is what’s on our plates. With donors – and the passions and concerns of donors at the center – we are pushing this community foundation into new areas to help shape Delaware’s future.
It’s my honor to be in this job – working with the incredibly generous folks I meet with every day. Please reach out to me if you have thoughts or suggestions.