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Community is at the heart of everything a community foundation does.

And, yes, I realize that seems obvious… “Well, duh! It’s in the name.”

What I am referring to, however, is thinking about and working with community on a higher level. It is a mindset that “community” is at the heart of everything your Foundation does – every strategic move, every grant distributed, every Board member recruited, and every relationship that builds a link into the community.

Here at The Foundation for Northwest Illinois, the word “community” has multiple definitions, each dependent upon the context of usage. It might be as simple as the traditional usage for the community of Freeport or community of Stockton or the larger, regional community of Northwest Illinois. Or it may be used as a reference to a service genre, such as the healthcare community or public education community. And, lastly, there are those demographical communities we all fit into somewhere – the female community, the senior community, the Hispanic community, and so on.

Those community links are vital to community building, and community building is essential to foundations seeking to develop genuine, open relationships with ALL the communities they serve. High-level research and analysis are meaningless if they are not coupled with open dialogue, with listening to and interacting with those who your organization represents and hopes to represent.

As our nation moves deeper into the twenty-first century, Foundations are becoming increasingly aware of the need to effect long-term change. As an industry, while answering immediate needs, foundations are also looking more closely at root causes of community concerns and seeking lasting solutions. This finds both foundations and the non-profit organizations we work with on a fast-track toward big picture thinking and hopeful for maximum impact.

For Foundations, to truly be good stewards of the gifts given by one generation for the betterment of life for generations to come, in perpetuity, we are tasked with being true, non-partisan community leaders, working with all communities to promote opportunity, growth, equity, and justice, with strategic, long-term goals of affecting real, positive change. It means being a champion for everyone in the area that Foundation represents and doing work today that will create a stronger community for generations to come.