Community Foundations Have A Notable Year in Growing Florida’s Philanthropic Legacy

One of the perks of running a statewide philanthropy association is that I see on a daily basis many heartwarming stories of Floridians who give their time and money to make our state a better place in which to live. The past year I’ve observed a number of particularly inspiring stories of Floridians who have made significant contributions to strengthening Florida’s philanthropic assets, working in partnership with their local community foundation.

Just last week, for example, Delores Barr Weaver established a $50 million charitable fund at The Community Foundation in Jacksonville. Weaver’s gift ranks among the largest charitable gifts ever made to any Jacksonville-based institution, and is the largest gift to the community foundation in its 48-year history. The donation comes just two months after Mrs. Weaver and her husband, J. Wayne Weaver, converted the Weaver Family Foundation into a $23.7 million advised fund at The Community Foundation in Jacksonville. The Weavers are the former owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they have made a powerful contribution to the long-term vitality and well-being of a community that has given so much to them – that’s what philanthropy is all about.

A few months ago I also learned about Mary N. Porter’s $40 million bequest to the Community Foundation of Broward, which was the largest gift in the foundation’s 28-year history – another record donation. Although Porter was from Pennsylvania and had traveled the world, after moving to Fort Lauderdale she quickly involved herself in local charitable and volunteer efforts and decided to leave her legacy to the new community she came to care about so much. Porter’s three new funds will help the community foundation tackle the most pressing social issues facing Broward County.

Many other community foundations in Florida have also experienced record-setting charitable gifts from local donors over the past year. The Community Foundation of North Florida in Tallahassee, for example, received a record $7.7 million in new contributions last year, including its largest-ever unrestricted gift.  In total, Florida community foundations received nearly $151 million in new gifts from donors last year, according to information gathered by FPN, which will result in about $7.6 million in new charitable dollars each year (assuming a conservative 5% annual payout rate).

These new charitable resources can support a myriad of community needs in Florida, from providing food, clothing and shelter for those in greatest need; ensuring access to quality health care; fighting diseases; giving all kids a good education; supporting the arts; protecting the environment…the list goes on. Part of Mary Porter’s gift will provide reliable, ongoing support for charitable organizations’ capital needs – the first fund of its kind in Broward County. One of the first gifts from Delores Weaver’s new fund will establish a policy center to support of the needs of girls in the juvenile justice system – a particularly vulnerable population.

During the holiday season, when charitable giving and long-term planning for philanthropy is often foremost in many people’s minds, it’s important to remember the vital role that community foundations play in Florida philanthropy. The 25 community foundations that are members of Florida Philanthropic Network work together to promote philanthropy in their neighborhoods and throughout the state. Florida community foundations hold more than $1.54 billion in charitable assets and give $115 million each year to support the vital work of nonprofits in our communities. Each Florida community foundation offers a simple, powerful, and highly personal approach to charitable giving, and can help donors meet their charitable goals and leave a lasting legacy in their community. FPN has a map of the 25 community foundations in Florida that are part of our membership, to help you find the community foundation nearest you.

Donors can establish funds at their local community foundation with much smaller amounts than Mary Porter and the Weavers did and still leave a valuable philanthropic legacy in Florida for generations to come. In fact, Delores Barr Weaver said she hoped her new fund will be an inspiration to others, particularly those of more modest means who may not think that they have the capacity to make a difference:

“We all have something to give and we need to widen the circle of donors,” Mrs. Weaver said. “It’s people who make philanthropy – you can’t separate the two. We all need to step up.”

You can learn more about community foundations at FPN’s Community Foundations of Florida website.

–  David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network

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