Trust. It’s perhaps the greatest attribute to have in the world of philanthropy. In the community foundation world specifically, where we at all times are both fundraiser and grantmaker, the trust of donors and charities alike is our greatest asset.
During this remarkable time of financial insecurity in our country and abroad, our field needs to take stock of who we are. Much of organized philanthropy deals in terms of endowment and the notion of perpetuity. Unlike most institutions, endowed foundations are built to be in business forever-quite an audacious concept. The decisions we make today greatly affect the future of our own organizations and the communities we serve. To gain and keep the trust of those we serve, we must look to our business model and policies to dictate our actions. This is rather mundane-not to mention boring. This is nothing to Tweet about. But this is what makes endowed foundations trustworthy institutions.
The Council instituted National Standards for Community Foundations 11 years ago. These standards have increased the level of competency for community foundations throughout the country and have set a high bar for other nonprofits and foundations to follow. Many of these standards speak to investment policies, audit committees, and due diligence. They should be noted and promoted within our field and to the general public to strengthen the bond of trust we have with our communities.
When the whole world seems in chaos, the people who keep their wits about them and stick to their model of business should come out the other side in good shape. We in the endowment business need to be consistent in our philosophy and reliable stewards, and keep the long view in mind. Ultimately, that is what makes us worthy of that most sacred asset-trust.
John Stremsterfer is executive director, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln.