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I believe philanthropy is a cornerstone value that can define a community. It can, in a sense, make or break a community. Communities with generosity and a coordinated voice for need can elevate quality of life for everyone who lives there.

If you’re not familiar with the community foundation model, you’re not alone. Even though Virginia has more than 25 community foundations across the Commonwealth, many folks are not familiar with us. In a nutshell, community foundations work with local donors to build endowment.

Community foundation donors are very involved. They create and name their own personalized fund. They decide the purpose of the fund. People instinctively want to give to something that supports the place they live and love if the right giving vehicle is at the ready. And, community foundations, with their broad flexible purpose, are at the ready.

For more than 25 years, I’ve been involved in nonprofit work, mostly in fundraising, and for the past three years, as jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none executive director of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties. It is, by far, the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. My work and career has been deeply influenced by good luck, hard work, and a remarkable cadre of volunteer leaders. Through it all, a few key notions keep floating to the surface that, I believe, have helped my local community foundation stretch and grow. Here they are:

  1. Money does make the world go round.
  2. You can’t take it with you.
  3. Buy low and sell high.
  4. Give a gift that keeps on giving—include charity in your will.
  5. Be a changemaker—find an issue that matters to you, and support it.
  6. You don’t have to be “rich” to be a philanthropist.
  7. Philanthropy is essential to the American way.

Here’s one more: Local philanthropy is essential to a vibrant, healthy community. You can touch it, track it, and see it. I hope you partake in it.