100 days of reflections

Since joining NCCF some 100 days ago, I’ve gotten many of the usual questions directed to people in new jobs: Are you liking it? Are you learning a lot? Are you traveling? Are you overwhelmed?

And, I’ve gotten questions that are a bit more specific to NCCF and to me: What is a community foundation anyway? What does asset development mean?

The short answer to the first set of questions is: I’m loving it.

Two of the top factors that motivate me are intellectual curiosity and intention, both of which have been at play during my first 100 days.

Since March 11, I’ve gotten a crash course in endowments, scholarships and giving circles; a refresher course in bequests, charitable trusts and IRA distributions; a general overview of investment strategies for long-term growth; and a deep dive into new databases and systems.

Have I felt overwhelmed? Sometimes. But the overwhelming and challenging stages bring growth, innovation and opportunity.

Just when my brain feels overloaded, I’m on the road, taking in our beautiful state; driving by horse farms in Moore County, strawberry fields in Montgomery County and Campbell University’s campus in Harnett County.

I’m meeting a professional advisor partner in downtown Southern Pines, strategizing with a Wake County philanthropist on how to build philanthropy into her estate plan and talking with a nonprofit about their campaign to start and grow an endowment.

My heart is engaged, driven and motivated by that second factor I mentioned above – intention.

These first few months have allowed me to assist others to achieve their charitable vision and keep assets in their community forever, to be used for the vitality and support of their home.

As to the second set of questions, my responses have been something like this:

Admittedly, I came to NCCF with a very general understanding of a community foundation.

Community foundations are like a three-legged stool: one leg is grantmaking, another is asset development and the third is community leadership. All three legs of the stool must be equally strong for the foundation to be stable.

The Development Team is the asset development ‘leg’, working with philanthropists, nonprofits, corporations and families to establish endowments that will invest their assets and keep them in the community in perpetuity.

The concept of asset development is very different from fundraising for a nonprofit operating budget.

Asset development takes a lot time – sometimes many years – before being realized. Endowments last in perpetuity, which to some can seem daunting, but play a vital role in the long-term success of a community.

Bill Gates recently wrote a Linkedin article about his good friend, the incomparable Warren Buffett.

One paragraph has stayed with me since I read it, helping me understand the importance of retaining local assets in perpetuity: “In a time when instant gratification is craved in all aspects of life, Warren is one of the most patient people I know, willing to wait to get the results he wants. As he once said, ‘Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.’”

In these hot and sticky southern summers, the shade sounds mighty nice.

Have you thought about how you may “plant a tree” in your community?