Road Trip to Pennsylvania
I have visited many community foundations in the last four years and in every single instance, I have come away thinking that the work community foundations do is simply amazing. A few weeks ago, Emily Watkins and I traveled to Berks County Community Foundation (BCCF) to make a National Standards presentation to the board of directors. Our friend and colleague Kevin Murphy invited us to come a day early so that we had time to visit with the staff and some of their grantees.
Every day, we read, write, and interpret the Standards for foundations going through the process. During our visit to Reading, Pa., we had time to sit and listen to the staff talk about their work. Standards are a blueprint for community foundation operations and Emily and I were struck by how much we knew about each person’s work because of them. Later on, we joked about how we knew there was a policy or procedure for virtually everything we heard.
Watching a community foundation staff in action is pretty impressive. Kevin and his team offered us a glimpse into how a community foundation plays a pivotal role in understanding community needs. We saw how the foundation is a convener, collaborator, and leader. What I found most interesting is how the community foundation is both a leader and a servant. The new BCCF building is a perfect example of this idea. The architects and builders used green technology to create a LEED platinum-certified building (95 percent of the building waste was recycled). The first floor is open for community use and the new board room is a neutral meeting space. The second floor houses community foundation operations. The third floor is the new home of a small business incubator developed in collaboration with the local university.
We met two high school students—members of the next generation of grantmakers—for lunch at a local restaurant and they took us through their decision-making processes for choosing the projects they funded: one that creates after-school programs for non-English speaking children and the other that works with incarcerated mothers.
We also made a presentation to the board of directors on the importance of National Standards. It was interesting to hear their questions about the process and how it compares with other accreditation programs. A review of the existing BCCF Standards record book required staff to bring revised, updated or new policies and procedures to the board for their approval.
I came away thinking several things: Community foundations are awesome and a national asset. Community leadership takes many different forms. We need to provide boards more resources about National Standards because most foundations are not within a day’s drive of us. Community foundation staff needs quality procedures and policies on our Standards website. And last but not least, how can I get myself invited to another site visit?!