The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice’s website states that: “The difference between reaction and proaction is everything.”
Rather than sitting back on the sidelines, the Community Foundation decided to be proactive and map out a plan for transforming the community.
On the front line stands President and CEO Teri Hansen, who joined GCCF nine years ago.
“Together with our donors, we are working to transform the region,” says Hansen.
Examples of initiatives the foundation is taking to make the community a better place include CareerEdge, STEM and Gulf Coast Gives. CareerEdge is changing the way workforce development happens to more directly benefit the employer and the employee. With average training costs of $1,443 per worker, CareerEdge has brought a return on investment that includes 615 workers advanced into higher-skill, higher-wage positions, 156 new jobs created and 200 jobs saved. Annual wages for these workers have increased by a total of $2.3 million after their training. CareerEdge initially focused on the local health-care industry, and now it has expanded to manufacturing, with plans to train employees for 400 new jobs at local manufacturing companies. CareerEdge is also working on a policy that will be used to try to make the way government money flow for workforce development more effective.
To prepare local students for high-wage careers of the future, GCCF is investing $2.5 million in a five-year initiative that aims to improve achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — also known as STEM. In the first year of the STEM initiative, 67 middle- and high-school teachers received nearly 400 hours of training to help them teach rigorous new state standards in science and math. Another big component of the STEM initiative is real-world, hands-on learning opportunities, and already 654 students have participated in science' and math'related clubs; 277 students enrolled in science summer camps. The foundation also has funded five Classrooms of Tomorrow.
Gulf Coast Gives is a long-term strategy to engage everyone in the community — it is a citizen philanthropy tool that enables anyone to make a donation, in any amount, to support real needs being served by local nonprofits. The website GulfCoastGives.org has been live for three months, and already 94 charity projects have been funded, worth nearly $105,000. Projects span from $96 to $15,450.
“Gulf Coast is always looking for a return on investment; we always want to leverage the money we invest in the community,” says Hansen. “We take a long-term view on everything — to make systemic change, not just put a Band-Aid on a problem.”
During the current economic climate, GCCF has had to adjust just like any other business. Every spring, the foundation strips down to zero base and reevaluates.
“It makes us stop and think about what we’re doing and do we need to keep doing it, and what we’re not doing and how are we going to do it — and who do we have who is going to do that?” says Hansen. “We have reduced staff by 25%, our operating budget by 30% and have focused our responsive grant making much more to align with the board’s priorities for the community.”
Amidst implementing important programs, the Non-Profit Organization Award is exciting to GCCF.
“This honor is affirmation to the board and to the staff that we are focusing on the right things and doing what we need to do for our community,” says Hansen. “We always say, ‘If not us, then who?’ It’s our job to care and to take the long road to the do the right thing.”
At a glance
Address: 601 Tamiami Trail S., Venice
Start date: Fall 1995
Number of employees when started: 12 (when Hansen started)
Number of employees now: 17
Advice for other small business owners: “Stay lean and flexible," Hansen said. "You can’t have a five-year strategic plan and lock yourself into it without making adjustments.”
Biggest challenge: “For nonprofits, the biggest challenge is being willing to take themselves down to zero and rebuild on paper. Say ‘if we were starting this organization today, what do we absolutely have to have, and then rebuild.’ They need to look at their business plan and refresh it.”
“The foundation’s biggest challenge, for me, is making sure that we have the right people in the right positions and that we are all working in the right and same direction,” says Hansen. “We are a people driven organization.”
Where do you see your business a year from now? “Even more focused and more driven to transform our region through bold and proactive philanthropy.”
What was the first day on the job like? “Overbooked — and that doesn’t seem to have stopped since. I had half-hour meetings scheduled for nine hours straight. That is 18 scheduled meetings on my first day.“
If you could have any job for the day, what would you do? “I’d love to be the executive producer of the ‘Morning Joe’ show — they are interesting, balanced, fast paced and creative.”
Who is your business hero/inspiration? “I have two; each was a board member of the community foundation that I started 20 years ago in Indiana. George P. Sweet, a developer in Carmel, (Ind.,) taught me to do the right thing for the right reason, which is my mantra. The second is Earl Goode, who was president of GTE North and taught me you have to have plan, persistence and patience. He always said I had two out of three.”
What is one advantage of having your business in Sarasota? “The phenomenal philanthropists who care about this community as much as they do, where they came from and invest as much as they do in our community. We transform the community with our donors.”
Contact Stephanie Hannum at [email protected].