With the holidays quickly approaching and recovery still in place from the devastation created by October’s tornadoes, the Communities Foundation of Texas philanthropic fund holders came together on Tuesday, November 6, at CFT for both a review of the past year’s activities by CFT President/CEO Dave Scullin and Chief Relationship Officer Monica Egert Smith, as well as a talk by National Center for Family Philanthropy CEO Ginny Esposito on “Pride of Place.” Here’s a report from the field:
The moody weather didn’t discourage any of Communities Foundation of Texas’ fund holders from gathering at CFT’s beautiful headquarters for their annual fund holder appreciation dinner on Tuesday, November 6. This year’s theme was “Pride of Place,” which is quite a timely topic given the recent tornadoes causing us to rally together for this place we call home.
The evening began with cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres served by crowd favorite Abraham Salum. Former board chair Frank Risch chatted with former trustee Judy Gibbs and her husband Jim. Mac McGinnis and his date Cynthia Cummings swapped stories with Kathryn McGill, Melissa Hardage and Carol Goglia. Amelia White was thrilled to see her GiveWisely classmates John Henry and Katherine Seale. Nicole Paquette was excited to reconnect with Brooks Igoh and his mother Becky Igoh, as Brooks recently graduated from CFT’s Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy cohort. Deb and Craig Sutton visited with Carolyn Newham about how much they enjoy CFT and how long they have been part of the organization.
Dave Scullin welcomed the crowd of 200 which included those who have had charitable funds at CFT for 30 years, as well as others who just opened their charitable funds in the last 30 days. He expressed what an honor it is to work with each family and business, sharing their common bond and alignment around the goal of making our community better for everyone.
Dave congratulated the crowd on their collective success of raising $50 million from 100,000 donors for 3,000 nonprofits on North Texas Giving Day and announced that CFT’s new annual report is now available online and is filled with inspiring stories of generosity (like that of Ann and Taoreed Badmus, who were there that night). He also shared the astounding record-breaking total of $118 million granted to worthy nonprofits for CFT’s 2019 fiscal year, with more than a third of that coming from grants that many of those in the room made from their funds. CFT Trustees like Connie O’Neill, Sarah Losinger, Alfreda Norman, Debra Brennan Tagg, and board chair, Jim Bass surely felt a deep sense of accomplishment for the impact.
Rev. David Schaefers, from First Presbyterian Church of Richardson, who is also a CFT fund holder and the husband of CFT’s director of accounting, Leigh Schaefers, led a powerful moment of silence as well as a prayer and reflection.
The dinner carried on with conversations between representatives of the 600 individuals and businesses who have a donor-advised fund at CFT, including Fonsa and George Brody, Sejal and Hemang Desai, Allen and Barbara Dogger getting to know each other better and discussing their work in the community. Conversations ranged from topics like those of Dallas Zoo docent Lynn Rupp and Zookeeper Aide Daryl Rupp highlighting projects at the zoo, thanks to the Dallas Zoo Docents Inc. Fund at CFT, or Jane and Chick Pierce telling Ruth and Mickie Wardlaw about their joy in creating the Pierce Grandchildren Fund at CFT after Jan and Fred Hegi’s example.
After dinner, Chief Relationship Officer Monica Egert Smith took the stage to share updates on CFT’s Live Oak Society, which was created to recognize individuals and families who have named CFT as a beneficiary of their will or trust.
For the last 66 years, CFT has been working alongside generous people, nonprofit partners, and other community leaders on some of the most challenging issues in North Texas and beyond and was excited to share their list of 134 donors, some living and some deceased, who are recognized as inaugural members of CFT’s Live Oak Society. Monica called out a few of the Live Oak Society’s hometown heroes, such as Marnie and Kern Wildenthal who have dedicated their lives to this community through service, and have made plans to continue supporting the organizations most important to them after their lifetimes through CFT. She also highlighted Jackie and Andy Schwitter and their children who for many years have provided full tuition scholarships for high-potential, low-income students allowing them to attend Bishop Lynch High School; as well as Carter Creech, who is changing lives and providing opportunities for students and teachers in his hometown of Troy, Missouri.
Monica then introduced guest speaker, Ginny Esposito, CEO of the National Center for Family Philanthropy to talk about “Pride of Place” and what it means for businesses and families to commit to their local communities. For 35 years, Ginny has spent her career advocating for helping families find effective ways to nurture a thriving community by showcasing their pride of place.
During her remarks, Ginny highlighted the results of a study she conducted that revealed how families are motivated to give to place because they have gratitude for the place and want to give back and often want to set an example for the next generation. She also shared how many families have specific issue areas within a place that they focus on funding. She overviewed data around the advantages and opportunities of place-based giving, including deepening family connections, unifying family around heritage, legacy, and purpose, gaining deep knowledge of community assets and needs, the ability to dig in and fund for the long haul. She highlighted how community foundations around the country are often key partners to families as they’re able to provide knowledge of the community, expert guidance, and help with charitable legacy planning. She closed by sharing some of the key characteristics of successful place-based funders, including always being willing to keep learning and planning while being open to change, as well as having a sense of stewardship (instead of ownership) and privilege as pertaining to honor and responsibility (instead of entitlement).
Following the program, Ann and Nate Levine visited with Dave and Monica about how relevant the speaker topic was. Attendees left the event feeling inspired to think about their own pride of place and how it translates to giving of their time, talent and treasure.
* Photo credit: Kim Leeson