Nurturing and encouraging a community

Rande Richardson

Over the last several years, the Northern New York Community Foundation has continually looked for ways to extend its reach and scope to fulfill the true spirit and mission by which it was established in 1929. Moving beyond being a transactional grantmaker is a path we believe we should pursue, as making investments through grants and scholarships is really only part of the story. Those efforts have been well received, as the diversity and number of charitable funds and legacies administered on behalf of individuals, families, organizations and businesses has grown significantly. Also during this time, our service area extended to include St. Lawrence County, whose residents have responded positively, with many establishing permanent funds and others supporting the Foundation’s overall efforts to enhance the region’s quality of life. The experience of philanthropy should not belong to any one group or demographic and the options for expressing it should be as diverse as the community itself.

   The Foundation, through the support of its donors, past and present, has been able to implement new programs which encourage and nurture community awareness, leadership and instill the interest and desire to give back across generations. This is most evident in our Youth Philanthropy and Next Generation LEAD Councils. We have also have been steadfast in our belief that one of the most important responsibilities we have is to be a resource to nonprofit organizations that provide both basic services and quality of life enhancements by offering additional tools to ensure their ability to fulfill their mission for the long term. This has included helping build partnership endowments that serve to both diversify revenue streams in good times and bad and also provide donors with a heightened level of structure and long-term stewardship when they choose to support the charitable interests they are most passionate about. This is powerful!

   Because of these things, the Community Foundation reached a crossroads. Over a year ago, thoughtful discussion began regarding how to accommodate the increased reach and scope and ensure that we were properly positioned to continue to diversify the way we serve our community, the donors who support it and the organizations we are able to invest in. Moving simply to provide more office space was not reason nor visionary enough.

   We continually ask organizations we serve to find ways to minimize duplication, find efficiencies of scale, and look for opportunities to share and collaborate when it makes sense. We needed to do the same. We looked inward and asked: “is this an opportunity for us to do better, in a more collaborative way, doing more, for our community, its organizations, donors and all those we strive to serve?”

   The alignment of stars and months of due diligence provided even greater clarity on how to best enter the next chapter.

Following the lead of other community foundations across the state and country, we embraced the philanthropy center concept as a way to:

  • Create a sustainable model that will enable sharing and consolidation of resources (space, services, staff, ideas, technology) with other nonprofits in a synergistic setting while reducing operational costs for up to seven charitable organizations under one roof, including our own.
  • Provide convening and collaboration space for nonprofit organizations and community groups.
  • Provide additional space to expand and grow Youth Philanthropy, Next Generation LEAD and educational internship programs.
  • Offer additional ways to tangibly celebrate, recognize and honor north country philanthropy, and those who have made, and are making, it possible, with the hope that others will be moved and inspired to perpetuate it.

   The new space that we will share with others must be for and about our community. It will open the door to convenings and leadership opportunities and serve as a catalyst for specific and broad philanthropic activities.  

   The third floor will provide organizations the ability to develop a shared services model. All will benefit from the synergy of being united in a facility that promotes new thinking in regards to all ways that allow more charitable resources to go further. The Center itself will be both efficient and sustainable, as up to seven organizations (including the Community Foundation) share one home.

   With the help of Purcell Construction, an historically significant building was preserved, restored and returned to community use, enhancing the other investments being made in the Downtown area. With over $2 million raised, the community expressed its will to make it happen, sharing the vision for the space and its potential to broadly support all charitable organizations with contributions of various sizes.

In the end, the Philanthropy Center is a tool and will only be as valuable as the way it is used. We take this responsibility seriously. We hope you share with us in celebrating this next chapter in community philanthropy that this collaborative venture represents, while honoring the past, celebrating the present and preparing for the future. It is the natural next step in realizing and building upon the same bold vision and mission that the founders of your community foundation had 88 years ago that you continue to embrace, and that enhances the quality of life for us, and those who will come after us.