Just 3 Things

By Dawn Brown

Just 3 Things

You see it every day. Two kinds of people are roaming our planet. One type flies by the seat of their pants. They wake up and don’t know exactly what the day will bring. They just see who calls or emails or texts to guide their energy. They have no plans. Life happens to them and they seem just fine with that reactive anti-system.

Then you have your planners. They are the ones who have checklists. And the first item on the checklist is ‘make a checklist’. Or they happen to complete some task that wasn’t on the checklist, so they hurry up and write it down so they can gleefully tick it off as complete.  They love a good system and will create one, if needed.

And while being hardcore on either side of the planning continuum might not be a healthy best practice, the CoFo team definitely lands on the side of planning our work so we can work our plan.

That’s exactly how we completed our last strategic plan one year earlier than projected. Literally, we directed our minutes and our money relentlessly toward achieving our goals. So, then we spent three months working with Wendy Puffer and her awesome team at Marion Design Co. to collect data, conduct several design-thinking sessions with multiple groups of people, and interview our Board and Team. And as much work as that was—and it was—the hard part remained, culminating that data into a concise vision. And that vision is bold!

Just recently, after a thorough review of the new strategic plan, our Board of Directors approved this new vision. I’m especially thankful at how seriously our Board considered each Objective and Task, added value to every nuance, and offered up points of clarity.  It made the plan better and brought even more excitement to the entire CoFo team.  In fact, as one meeting ended, the group erupted in spontaneous applause. Seriously, have you ever had a Board Meeting that ended in such audible approval?  I highly recommend it and hope you all get to experience that feeling at least once in your lifetime.

But what makes me most proud of this plan, and even our last plan, is the intentionality integrated within. Many have heard the proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be doomed to wander aimlessly in my life or my career. You, I, and Grant County deserve better than that!

I’ve often reiterated the story from Alice in Wonderland where Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for directions when she approached a fork in the road. Not knowing exactly where she wanted to go, the wise cat said that it didn’t much matter which road she took if she was simply roaming like a nomad with no destination in mind. Essentially, any road will get you somewhere.  As an old friend of mine once said when we traveled the county well before GPS was invented, “If you’re not here, you’re somewhere else.”  That’s not good enough for me.

At the Community Foundation of Grant County, we’re neither interested in perishing nor roaming like nomads. Therefore, we make and execute plans. Plans with BHAGS—Big Hairy Audacious Goals! And we’re excited to begin informing you, our donors, and the public, about those plans in the coming months.

What I can tell you now is that this strategy reminds me of a story about a 3-year old who wanted to be an astronaut. Upon asking her mom what it would take to jet set to infinity and beyond professionally, her mother replied:

“You have to study hard, go to college, learn a lot of science, and take a physical fitness test.” Not deterred, the child said, “That’s just four things.”

Easier said than done, right?  That’s what our new strategic plan will be like.  With only 3 large (read: ginormous) Objectives, multiple Action Items, and even more Next Steps to make it all happen, we certainly have our work cut out for us.  And I’m thankful for that. Our Board of Directors has given us a tremendous gift by approving this bodacious plan. The gift of clarity. The gift of intentionality. The gift of vision.  Exceptional Boards approve extraordinary plans.  It’s like they draw the lines on the road and tell us where our destination is, yet they leave it to the Team—those of us who make the CoFo our day job—to determine the exact pathway to get there. It’s a beautiful partnership.

While I plan to write more in detail about these plans when each element rolls out, it is important that you understand why a Community Foundation whose age and assets are both in the mid-30’s would partake in some activities that we haven’t in the past.  It’s a worthy question and one that we wrangled with as we developed the final strategic plan. It all has to do with organizational maturity.

You see, there are CoFos across the nation—nearly 1000 of them, almost 100 of those in the state of Indiana. So, it’s common to see community foundations at every age and stage of development across the nation.

Organizations at our level of maturity are often balancing the three-pronged business model of building endowment, grantmaking, and community leadership.  It’s often that we’ll become the leader of group convenings, focus on large-scale grantmaking impact, and reinvigorate the foundation’s brand.

All of that lends to strengthening relationships with other nonprofits and funding partners—and those partnerships can take on many different forms that we’ve never seen locally before, some even monumental and replicable as the Foundation can even become known as an anchor institution. You’ll see our planned giving program become a larger part of our donor experience and impact investing extend our social return on investment reach with significant results. Grantmaking will become more proactive based on community data as a way to address our greatest needs and stepping up as a community leader will be priority number one.

So, in essence, we want to be philanthropic astronauts. Stay tuned as we launch this big adventure into Grant County’s charitable space, and soar into parts unknown until now.  After all, it’s just three things!

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