The Board of your Bowen Island Community Foundation was well represented in Calgary, with three of our directors (Soren Hammerberg, Julia McCaig and Colleen O’Neil) taking in sessions that ranged from the topic of improving Board governance to the subject of initiatives that can tackle the problem of loneliness within communities.
We’ll just highlight three of the most intriguing and potentially useful sessions. First, small funds for small neigbourhoods – grants that can work to build connections and bonds between people. Second, a website analytics tool called GAB (Google Analytics Benchmark) that will allow us to compare the impacts of our online strategies with those of other community foundations in Canada. And third, the creation of the Fogo Island Inn, a story of how a charitable foundation can help to revive a rural economy through the media of art, design and innovation.
The Vancouver Foundation spoke of its success in combatting the problem of loneliness, through the use of small neighbourhood grants that can serve to help those who are part of a neighbourhood, but are isolated and lonely, perhaps because of mobility or language issues, or perhaps because of a simple lack of opportunities to meet and share experiences with others. Consider “the power of pie”, a small grant that enabled neighbourhood women – originally from Germany, Brazil, Venezuela, France, China, Japan, and Iran – to start cooking together, learning how to make traditional dishes from their mother countries, and learning to speak each other’s languages.
And then there was Google Analytics Benchmark (GAB), a web application tool that will allow our more technically capable Board members to tell us how our website measures up to other community foundation websites, in terms of number of visitors, the length of time spent on the site and the frequency with which visitors return. GAB will permit us to compare our foundation to others, taking into account our relative assets and our population size. We will be able to assess the effectiveness of our online communications strategy and our use of social media – and then implement changes to communicate more effectively with the community, when and where the need arises.
Finally, conference representatives were inspired by the story of the Fogo Island Inn, located in a fishing community off Newfoundland’s coast, a very remote location with craggy shores and a long history of fishing. The Inn was recently developed by the Shorefast Foundation, which is the inspiration of Zita Cobb, a successful businesswoman who grew up on Fogo Island. Through the Foundation she created the Inn as a community asset, and then employed local residents to create the art and to manufacture the furniture. Shorefast has noted that 100 per cent of the operating surpluses of the Inn are reinvested into Fogo Island “to help secure a sustainable and resilient future for Fogo Island, Newfoundland.”
These creative approaches illustrate a range of possibilities for community foundations. What might we all do together to help secure a sustainable and resilient future for Bowen Island, British Columbia?