“Philanthropy is personal,” says Community Foundation of Sarasota County president and CEO Roxie Jerde. “Any giving is good giving, but if you get people even more excited about it, they go to truly being an investor” in a certain beloved cause or project, benefiting the community at large.
Jerde certainly seems excited when talking about her new job at the Community Foundation. She took the post after spending more than eight years working with the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, part of that time as a consultant and part as senior vice president for donor relations and education. In Kansas City (where she also held a number of marketing and product-development positions at for-profit companies), she watched that foundation grow over a 20-year period from a $3 million organization to one with more than $1 billion in funds. While Sarasota is a smaller community, with different needs and goals, she’d like to bring some of that philanthropic growth to her new home.
“I never had a burning desire to be the CEO of a community foundation; I was happy in Kansas City,” says Jerde, 58, who is still settling into her new home here with husband Mike, a retired litigation attorney. (But she did take a break this summer, when she and Mike, dedicated cyclists who spend hours on the road every weekend, headed off for their annual seven-day bike ride across Iowa, in an event called RAGBRAI.) “But when the search committee here invited me to come for interviews, I saw such great potential, such a wealth of experience in the field. And I like to learn and grow. That’s the reason I came—that and to help this community get stronger and better,” she adds.
In the nearly six months since she took up her new position, she’s plunged into learning all she can about the Sarasota area, getting to know leaders of just about every nonprofit in town. She’s discovered just how social a town Sarasota is. “I’ve not been used to so many galas and luncheons,” she says. “People in Sarasota know what it’s like to be new here; everyone’s been like Welcome Wagon on steroids.” And Jerde is also preparing to implement a new program she was responsible for launching in Kansas City and one that should bring welcome clarity to the world of nonprofits and their donors here: DonorEdge.
Now in its early stages of research in Sarasota, DonorEdge will, when made available to the public (perhaps by the beginning of 2012), give would-be donors a new online tool to evaluate their choices in charitable giving. Detailed profiles of area nonprofits—including their goals, strategies and financial stability—will be available online, providing donors with the objective information they need before giving, while helping to connect nonprofits with those donors. Project director is Susie Bowie, well-known as communications associate of the Nonprofit Resource Center of the Community Foundation. Jerde says Donor Edge needs at least “100 profiles before ‘you turn it on,’” but will ultimately include 400 to 500 nonprofits in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties.
Jerde stresses that DonorEdge will involve not just the Community Foundation, but fellow foundation the Gulf Coast Community Foundation as well. “We’ve had meetings on how we can work together to roll this out,” she says. “Teri [Gulf Coast president and CEO Teri Hansen] and I are committed to moving forward together on this.”
Beyond DonorEdge, Jerde says, she hopes to bring to life other strategies for beefing up donor relations. “Our vision is to make donor dreams a reality,” she says. “There are 700 funds administered through the foundation, and every one is an individual. We want to be sure we’re good stewards and ensure donor peace of mind. We’re making sure we’re as effective as we can be, internally, since we’re demanding that of nonprofits.”
Jerde also sees the foundation’s mission as being “a catalyst for social change,” providing philanthropic thought leadership. “In this country, there’s $304 billion a year given in philanthropy. About 85 percent of that is from individuals. What I hope to bring to our donors is good tools, to analyze where they are and to help them be smarter philanthropists.”
And Sarasota, Jerde adds, with its older demographic, is fertile ground for encouraging what she calls “generational philanthropy.”
“Think of us as the Silicon Valley for aging,” she explains. “There’s a real opportunity to be a model for how to age vibrantly and to pass your values on to your kids and grandkids. We can be a resource for families in ways that may push the envelope, figuring out how to do things better and learning from others. I love to be at the forefront of something, to figure out what works and what doesn’t.”