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Reflections on a Great First Year

Posted: January 18th 2019

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By Brad Little, President and CEO

Honestly, where did 2018 go?   I can’t believe it’s been a year since I began this journey as time has flown by in such a wonderful, exciting way.  Maybe too quickly.  A contributing factor has been the abundance of unpredictable moments and pleasant surprises that populated my first year.

I want to share a few of those moments in no particular order – and not comprehensive by any means.  Here are some highlights that come to mind:

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Spending time with my colleagues here at CFGFW and getting to know them and watching us grow together as a team.  Same for our board of directors, committee members, community leaders and our donors.  A donor highlight included the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Northeast Indiana chapter’s 2018 “philanthropists of the year” recipients Georgia Wralstad Ulmschneider and Mark Ulmschneider.

Taking a big gulp as I peeked over the edge of the roof from the top of Lamplighter Inn, then stepping off backwards and repelling down the side of the building for GiGi’s Playhouse and a wonderful cause.

Mark & Georgia Ulmschneider

Losing our very talented Director of Communications in the late spring when she peeked in my office near the end of the day and asked “…do you have time for a crucial conversation?”  That is rarely a good thing; and we’re a small, close-knit team; and I’m brand new!  However, it was a great opportunity for her and I’m happy to report she has launched her own firm and is doing great.

Then finding her replacement, a recent graduate of Trine University with 18 months of experience as an intern with another community foundation.  She has enthusiastically, energetically and seamlessly taken our communications, marketing and public relations to that “next level”.

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Humbly delivering big foam checks to very surprised and thrilled Executive Directors and Development Directors in the midst of capital campaigns.  I had the pleasure of surprising the Boys and Girls Club, Arts United and Crossroad Child & Family Services.

It’s hard to articulate the feelings you experience as you watch faces go from welcoming, to puzzled, then to shock as I hand them the check; and ultimately joy and gratefulness once it has all sunk in.

For 2 days in April we welcomed Mr. Chris Gergen CEO of Forward Cities and hosted nearly 75 community leaders for conversations around diversity, equity and inclusiveness.  Some in attendance had never stepped foot in our building before that night.  I call that progress.

We celebrated 5 Lilly Endowment Community Scholars along with their families and close friends.  They have no idea what amazing experiences and opportunities are in store for them and the positive difference they will make in the world.  We are so excited for them!

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Making new friends and learning best practices while visiting the thriving cities of Greenville South Carolina and Detroit Michigan with Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and several others.  In addition to the new camaraderie, we’ve brought back with us several best practices, lessons learned and are working together to bring some of them to life in Fort Wayne.

This summer we celebrated 10 years in the Steininger Center for the Community Foundation – a magnificent gift from Don and Kathy Steininger.  Followed by a wonderful surprise again from the Steiningers – a new digital sign.  And we capped the year with a celebration as we burned the mortgage!

Factoid:  since opening the doors in 2008 we’ve had more than 20,000 people attend meetings and 100 non-profits utilize our meeting space.  Amazing!

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On a Friday afternoon in late September, we officially kicked off our year-long strategic planning journey.  Our board and staff spent an amazing afternoon getting to know each other and collectively sharing and discussing our “Why?” using nationally recognized speaker Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” format and facilitated by our two wonderful coaches Drs. Erin Cressy and Mickey Hayes of Cressy Consulting.

Dr McMahon - Board Dec 2018

Thanks to many of you, and others, who gave generously to both our #GivingTuesday and Gifts from the Heart campaigns this Fall with both significantly surpassing previous years’ amounts. Thank you!

To supplement our strategic planning process and to inform our work, in October we began a “board education speaker series” featuring a monthly guest speaker who shares with us the vision and strategies of their respective organization.  This too has been a fascinating learning experience.

Giving Tuesday - YMCA 2018

As we prepare for 2019, what I find so encouraging is the growing sense of community.  Internally, we all agreed – board and staff – we enjoy what we do because we love our community, we love Fort Wayne and especially the people who make it so special.  We are passionate about connecting people and resources in a way that will continue to build a more vibrant and inclusive community.  Thanks to all of you who have made 2018 such a special year.  We are excited for all that 2019 has in store for us!


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