Connections are everything, from getting your kid a summer job to the collision of those newly discovered “God particles” that scientists theorize are the basis of all matter. For 10 years, this annual Guide to Giving has also been sparking connections, bringing you, our readers, together with great causes, other generous people and neighbors in need.
Indeed, connecting with others is the basis of our species’ survival. “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too),” Charles Darwin wrote, “those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Zooming ahead a century, John Lennon put it another way: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
Last year, we had a dream. The Community Foundation of Sarasota has been our partner in this issue from the beginning. And a fine partner they were, too, helping us compile and analyze information about hundreds of charities and sending the magazine out to thousands of their supporters. But our region is blessed with other charitable foundations, including one of the largest in the state—the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, headquartered in Venice. What if we could bring you the power and expertise of both these foundations by making them equal partners in this magazine?
“That would bring together the best and brightest in local philanthropy,” our executive publisher, Kelley Lavin, declared. “The new energy and ideas would be wonderful for our readers and for the community.”
Kelley is a bold thinker and a fearless advocate, but she approached the foundations’ executive directors with trepidation. After all, noble as their missions may be, charities—as anyone who has ever served on a nonprofit board knows—are comprised of people, which means competing agendas and power struggles can be the order of the day.
She needn’t have worried. The Community Foundation’s Roxie Jerde and Gulf Coast’s Teri Hansen embraced the idea, and they and their staffs have helped us understand and present the story of giving in our region more fully than ever before. And when it comes to connecting, they were way ahead of us, already working together on a trailblazing project called “The Giving Partner.” This free online database, a collaboration between Gulf Coast, the Community Foundation and Manatee Community Foundation, with support from The Patterson Foundation, provides a wealth of information about nonprofits, from their programs and impact to their finances and needs. Already, more than 200 local nonprofits are participating. It’s a transformational charitable tool, enabling you to make informed decisions about which causes to support. (In our listings of nonprofits, which begin on page 79, we have indicated those that are part of The Giving Partner.)
In this issue, you’ll read about other dreams that came true when people joined forces. Hannah Wallace tracks the minute-by-minute drama of the Giving Challenge, a 36-hour event that kicked off The Giving Partner, starting with bleary-eyed volunteers sipping coffee at dawn as they watched an electronic leaderboard start to light up with donations. We also report on people whose dreams have inspired new nonprofits, like Barbara Richards’ Project 180, aimed at helping ex-convicts build productive lives. And in “What Your Gift Can Buy,” we tell you how your donations, from $15 to $5 million, can make some specific local dreams come true.
You’ll also read how dreams—and lives—were destroyed by a Ponzi scheme that devastated many Sarasota investors and charities. Tony D’Souza, a novelist and reporter whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and Esquire, takes a fresh look at the scam masterminded by Art Nadel, who died this spring in prison. D’Souza, a part-time Sarasota resident, spent weeks engrossed in the complex details, fueled by a mixture of disbelief and outrage as he uncovered new information about the scheme’s evolution and the current lives of some key players. His “Eyes Wide Shut” is a riveting—and instructive—tale of greed, guilt and denial, and one of the most powerful stories we have ever published.