SRQ DAILY: Standards Bearers

The following guest column by Gulf Coast Senior Vice President for Administration/COO Veronica Thames appeared in the July 31 edition of SRQ Daily:

This month, Gulf Coast Community Foundation earned a significant recognition. We were confirmed in compliance with National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations® for three more years.

Gulf Coast has been accredited through the National Standards program since 2006—among the first community foundations in the country to earn this seal of excellence. The rigorous accreditation, administered by the Council on Foundations, demonstrates our unwavering commitment to integrity, transparency, and sound operations for our donors, our nonprofit partners, and our wider community.

Okay, sounds like ‘inside baseball,’ right? A long, technical process to document legal and regulatory compliance, ethical policies and practices, yada yada. Not your most scintillating Saturday morning reading. But, stay with me...

When I look at all 26 National Standards to which we adhere, I quickly see the donors we serve. The nonprofit organizations we fund. And the community leaders we partner with. Their stories both color and command our commitment to achieve these high standards for accountability and effectiveness.

National Standard 11.1, for example, says that we have a long-term goal of securing discretionary resource to address the changing needs of the communities we serve. And National Standard 16 says we honor our donors’ charitable intentions, consistent with community needs. They make me think of the wonderful legacy gifts that donors like Miriam Raines, Alvin Gould, and Helen Hadden entrusted to Gulf Coast before their passing.

Take the Hadden Memorial Endowment: Every year, it allows our staff and Board to identify the best opportunities “to improve quality of life for residents in North Port”—Mrs. Hadden’s specific charitable intention. Just last month, it allowed us to invest in the North Port Connector of the Legacy Trail, mental-health supports for local youth, life-skills training for struggling families, and rental assistance for seniors who can’t afford housing. That’s a lot from one generous donor. And it grows every year.

Then there’s National Standard 24, which says we address community issues and opportunities and strive to serve in leadership roles to assess the impact of that work. Makes me think of our Here4YOUth collaborative, a partnership with Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and dozens of human-service organizations that has helped focus our entire community on the mental-health crisis we are facing. Or our Community Playbook for Healthy Waterways, a “how to” guide that’s been embraced by government staff and grassroots activists alike to identify and inspire the big and small things we must do to restore our watershed.

I see many more examples in each of the 26 National Standards we strive to honor in our daily work. The seal you see above—a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal for philanthropy—reflects much more than the board and staff at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. It’s an emblem of every donor, every grantee, every partner, and every person we work with to transform our region. After all, we are better together—and this seal confirms it!


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