A recent back-and-forth on the opinion pages of the Star Tribune newspaper has cast the spotlight on the leadership vs. fundraising roles of community foundations across the country.
It started with a June 5 commentary questioning whether the nation’s fourth-largest foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in Mountain View, Calif. – and, by extension, other community foundations – has lost its way as a community leader by focusing on building assets.
It continued with an op-ed response June 11 in which leaders of the Minneapolis Foundation and the Minnesota & St. Paul Community Foundations argued they are, indeed, engaged in their communities in ways both big and small.
How much community leadership is too little, just right, or over the top? It’s a subjective question that deserves ongoing debate wherever you find a community foundation – including in Eden Prairie. So, allow us to outline what the Eden Prairie Community Foundation does in the area of leadership, and you can decide on your own.
Most of the Foundation’s leadership falls into the categories of “promoting volunteerism” in Eden Prairie and “strengthening the nonprofit community.”
We do these with activities such as:
- The annual GIVE Gathering volunteer fair and nonprofit training
- The annual Community Leaders Appreciation Luncheon
- The monthly nonprofit leaders gathering called Nonprofit Coffee Klatch
- Convening other Eden Prairie funders & grant makers, including representatives from Rotary, Lions, and more
- Participating on Eden Prairie Schools Community Education’s Community Engagement Impact Council
We provide information programming through events such as the annual “State of the Foundation, City & Schools.” And, we offer special partnership events like the Vikings Appreciation Luncheon held last fall to recognize the Vikings’ contributions to life in Eden Prairie by having their headquarters here for nearly 40 years. That event was accomplished with the help of the City of Eden Prairie, Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce, and Foundation for Eden Prairie Schools.
Another informative program we helped sponsor was the recent history program focusing on Camp Eden Wood’s predecessor: The Children’s Tuberculosis Camp. In August we’ll participate in the first Community Cultural Celebration, which is another event involving a wide range of Eden Prairie organizations.
Over the years, the Foundation has sponsored other programs to educate residents, including the 2015 “Immigrant Experience” program that tried to convey what it’s like to be an immigrant in the Twin Cities suburbs.
Often our community leadership efforts are behind the scenes, such as sharing information and interview results with the Eden Prairie Schools’ Family Resources Program, which a year and a half ago was putting together an assessment of Eden Prairie service needs and gaps.
And, occasionally that leadership is in your face, such as when we too write commentaries on topics of local interest, including an April 2018 commentary in the Eden Prairie News, titled, “Change is afoot, not for values that got EP here.”
All of this is on top of the Foundation’s grant program, which over the years has exhibited community leadership by filling scores of unmet needs – more than 550 grants to nearly 100 different organizations that serve Eden Prairie.
Still, community leadership is an area where we can always do better. If you have a suggestion on how to make that happen, contact the Foundation’s executive director, Mark Weber, at (952) 949-8499 or [email protected].