Wheels, wheels, wheels, wheels, wings

By Dawn Brown

Wheels, wheels, wheels, wheels, wings

Wheels, wheels, wheels, wheels, wings. Most of us know this feeling well—“the moment of lift” is what Melinda French Gates calls it. You’ve waited on the runway for your turn to take off. Finally, the plane picks up speed—wheels, wheels, wheels, wheels. Sometimes it seems like it takes forever until the wheels finally come off the ground and the wings take over—lift. Other times it’s quicker than you’d ever imagine. But the process is always the same—wheels, wheels, wheels, wheels, wings.

Every time I fly, I say those words in my head. And each time I lead a new initiative, I say it, too. Sometimes the lift is quick; most of the time, it’s not. That must be why patience is a virtue. Perhaps I’m not virtuous; patience has never been my strong suit. But in my many years of leadership in Grant County, I’ve learned how to build some lift into those runway moments. And today’s a great day to tell you all about that!

Happy International Day of Happiness, Friends! Who knew there was actually a single day in the calendar dedicated to being intentional about celebrating all things happy? I wish I’d thought of it!

The truth is, we look for reasons to celebrate the work we do every day of the year. In fact, we have what many would call a dinner bell hanging in our workroom. And we take advantage of ringing that bell anytime one of us has a victory to celebrate—no win is too big (wings) or too small (wheels)!

It goes like this. We’re all diligently working in our respective offices when the clang of the bell reverberates throughout the building. That’s our cue to gather around the workroom table to hear about the win-of-the-day from the excited bellringer.  It literally takes about a minute to share the accomplishment and after a few high fives, maybe some poetic snaps, and a congratulations or two, we make our way back to our offices. In under five minutes we have our own Mini-International Moment of Happiness, and it feels good.

It’s invigorating to see Grant County improve one donation, one grant, or one leadership initiative at a time. Sure, that lift that Melinda Gates speaks of is the ultimate goal, but when those wheels are buzzing down the runway, you’re still moving forward—and that’s not nothing. #RingThatBell

What I’ve come to realize when having those mini celebrations is that nearly all of them are collaborative. They happen when we team up with donors or grantees. They happen when we partner with nonprofit organizations as we progress to a proper level of the Relationship Spectrum. The element of collaboration rings true (pun intended) frequently and needs to become more of a local norm.

I was reminded of this on a much larger scale this week when I listened to a podcast featuring Bill Gates. He was talking about how large the Gates Foundation is, yet how they still cannot afford to buy and deliver vaccines to all the children in Africa on their own. You read that right, even the Gates Foundation doesn’t have enough money to do it all!

Of course, they are scaling their work internationally and thinking about BHAGs—Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals—as they should be. But we should all be doing that! Gates went on to say that his goal of vaccinating every child in Africa through the Global Alliance for Vaccines requires that the Gates Foundation enter into collaborationships with others. While both Merriam-Webster and Microsoft Word both hate my newly invented word, collaborationships, I think it fits well here. In this case, the Gates Foundation must partner with governments who have aid budgets. Then they must make a case for the governments to pool at least 1% of their budgets with their charitable dollars to get the job done.

To be as effective as Gates knows they need to be for the children in Africa, he must convince foreign governments to pool their funding to serve the greater good. It’s as genius as it is simple. Anyone who has ever read Stone Soup knows that when multiple people contribute toward the same end goal, the results speak for themselves.

So, we took a page out of the Gates Foundation playbook and the Stone Soup cookbook, and we’ve just announced an unprecedented collaboration with the United Way of Grant County. For the first time in our history, the Community Foundation is taking a portion of our Give To Grant Unrestricted grantmaking funds and giving them to the United Way of Grant County to pool with their funds available to agencies to enhance the impact on the community’s health, education, and financial stability.

Some of you might be thinking, “Why would you allow them to award your grant funds when you could get the credit for that?”

Good question and the answer is relatively simple, “It’s not about the credit, it’s about the impact.”

Both the United Way and the Community Foundation award to local 501(c)(3) organizations who serve citizens within our borders. By combining our funds, they can make larger, more impactful grants to the charitable organizations who are doing the most good for the most people. This will allow the awarded grants to be more comprehensive and sustainable, while allowing the United Way to use their streamlined grantmaking, due diligence, and expenditure responsibility process to ensure the funds are not just spent, but invested, wisely.

Of course, we’ll still be in the grantmaking business. But our focus will be more proactive, one in which we’ll be wearing our community leadership hats and one that will be focused toward our most pressing community needs. With the United Way taking over the distribution of part of our funds, some of our precious time will be available to collect data, listen to our community, establish some visionary goals, and execute strategies that plug into that vision. We believe that is the highest and best work the Community Foundation can and should be doing to bring about the most good for the most people.

Us giving the United Way the much-needed resource of funds and them giving us the much-needed resource of time, we’ll both get to that moment of lift a lot quicker. We hope in the coming months and years that this strategic landmark grant will inspire others and make a significant mark on the future of Grant County.

So, today is a wonderful day to celebrate the International Day of Happiness. As we couldn’t be happier to give this virtual high-five to the United Way of Grant County! As for patience, well, it’s still not my forte. But when I see our wheels progressing down the runway, I know the wings are going to take flight soon—and that makes me oh-so happy! Wheels, wheels, wheels, wheels, wings!

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