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January 18, 2021

11/18/2020 10:06:00 AM
Helping Windom Area Foundation prepare to launch

This year, I visited Windom more than I ever have before.
Not only did I get to enjoy the splendor of Cottonwood Lake on several sunny days, but I was also able to help guide the conversations as the Windom Area Foundation board members met to shape what this new foundation will look like.
As the community philanthropy officer at Southwest Initiative Foundation, I've been busy supporting local volunteers in three communities - Windom, Lamberton and Winsted - through the process of launching a local community foundation.
Giving and grantmaking
When SWIF piloted the local community foundation program in 1999, it was to give Southwest Minnesotans a way to support the charities and places that were important in their lives. It also serves as a way to retain wealth in this rural region.
This idea of giving and grantmaking is at the core of traditional community foundations, but it was a bold new experiment for SWIF, which had established a reputation as an economic development leader.
In the early days, we focused on the administrative expertise needed to process gifts and grants for our partners. But this work quickly grew into helping communities think about their shared values and how they wanted to reinvest in what they cared about.
Capacity building and leadership development became part of the launch process and ongoing support. In the past year, we've expanded our launch process yet again, making space to consider how a local community foundation can be part of ensuring real inclusion, equity and access to opportunities.
A way to help
In the 20-plus years since our local community foundation program started, we've grown to 30 affiliate partners with assets totaling more than $9.2 million. Combined, they've awarded grants totaling more than $6.6 million!
Those awards are just part of the story. People often recognize the work of community foundations is about giving, but sometimes they forget there are two sides to that - giving out grants yes, but also giving donors a meaningful place to express their generosity.
A local community foundation helps strengthen the social fabric by bringing together people who really want to make their communities even better places to live.
Exciting time
It's exciting to welcome new affiliate partners and get to know people in the region better.
In fact, that's one of the best parts of my job.
During each one of the seven launch meetings, I get to hear the passion and big ideas people have for the future of their communities.
If you want to be inspired, ask people about their hopes and plans for the places closest to their hearts.
It's your turn
My regular trips to Windom have come to an end for now as we've wrapped up our meetings: The Windom Area Foundation is prepared to launch.
Now it's your turn to dream about what the future could hold for Windom. Be sure to share those dreams with the local board members and help invest in making them come true.
Jeff Vetsch is the community philanthropy officer with the Southwest Initiative Foundation.

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