5 Questions

By Beau Denton March 31, 2011

Champion of Giving

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County recently named Roxie Jerde as president and CEO; she succeeds Stewart Stearns, who held the position for 21 years. Jerde, formerly senior vice president for donor and nonprofit relations at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, plans to bring a focus on donor relations and transparency to her new position, which she started March 1.

Why are you a good fit for this position?

I worked at Hallmark Cards for a number of years, and I had been on a lot of nonprofit boards before joining the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. I have an M.B.A. in finance and organizational behavior and an undergraduate degree in marketing. I also spent a year working with foundations across the country to pilot Donor Edge [an online database that allows donors to investigate community issues and nonprofits]. We eventually handed off the technology to GuideStar, the nonprofit database for our country.

How have community foundations changed in this economy?

People have become more deliberate about their philanthropy. They recognize the greater needs as the economy has gone down, so they’ve wanted to be more focused but step up and do what they can. And community foundations are becoming more ambitious. Many younger professionals don’t even want to work for a company unless there’s corporate and social responsibility as part of the culture of that business. Community foundations have got to be in tune with the wonderful opportunities in philanthropy—not just the technology, but the way people are coming together to work on causes that they care about.

Sarasota doesn’t have many large companies. Do you have any strategies for engaging smaller businesses?

More than anything, it’s about listening and learning, sitting down with the business leaders to look at how businesses can embrace corporate social responsibility. Part of the reason community foundations are such valued resources is that they know what’s going on in the community. You have the ability to ask good questions, to help guide a donor as they’re trying to do the most good with those dollars.

Are there any specific initiatives you plan to continue?

I absolutely love the Season of Sharing: $1.5 million was raised last year. That campaign shows you that anybody has an opportunity to give—whether it’s a dollar, or like the Patterson Foundation matching hundreds of thousands of dollars—it all matters. I can hardly wait to build upon the success that Stewart, my predecessor, had, and I’m amazed at the spirit of generosity and philanthropy in the community. I’m pretty jazzed about getting smart people together who have the ability to make Sarasota an even better place. I always say, “All of us are smarter than one of us.”

What are you looking forward to about Sarasota?

I’m going to miss the change of seasons, but I am excited that I can ride my bike all year in this fabulous weather. My husband and I are big bicycle riders. We do the 500-mile RAGBRAI ride across Iowa, and I’m anxious to try that Legacy Trail out. Here’s what I’m not looking forward to: There are no hills. I’ve got to do the Ringling Bridge—if you see me going up and down that a million times, I’m doing my hill training.

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