The breadth of opportunities that the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend offers to people looking to transform the region and make a difference in the lives of others is what first attracted Pete Wessels to the Community Foundation Board of Directors. Today, he serves as the Board Chairperson.
“The Community Foundation is such a classic entity in which you not only help individuals, but other charitable organizations,” said Wessels, who is in his second year as Chairperson. “If you’re supporting one organization, that is often your focus. But here… just look at the array of ability there is to help our region. It’s really fantastic. It really drew me here. There are so many ways you can help people.”
The Community Foundation, which launched a new mission this year, “transforming our region through the generosity of our donors,” has a history of arming individuals with the knowledge and resources to be philanthropic. “For the individual, if you want to do something charitable, there’s quite an armament of things to interest you,” Wessels said.
From a client who wants to do something charitable for one year to a private foundation that is looking to come under the umbrella of the Community Foundation because of the burden of administrative costs, they have flexible and diverse options, Wessels said.
It doesn’t mean there isn’t room for growth, he said, including CFGRB’s focus this year on making larger grants like the 2015 Leadership Grants that tackle issues of poverty and homelessness in the region. “In the future, the more money you have at your disposal, the more significant grants you can make and the bigger impact you can have,” he said.
The challenges the Community Foundation faces can be found at most non-profit and for-profit entities, Wessels said, who has spent his career as a lawyer and principal at Wessels Law Office. “It’s investment and budget, trying to keep everything, including administrative costs, as low as you can, but still provide great services,” he said. “There are challenges, but when you think of how much good the Community Foundation could do in the future, it’s worth it.”
The generosity of the community and the dedicated staff is what makes the Community Foundation successful, Wessels said. “There are excellent, hardworking people at the Community Foundation,” he said. “I tell them it’s okay to make mistakes. You’re not working if you don’t make mistakes—just learn from them. I tell them to go for it.”
Wessels said the true hallmark of the Community Foundation is its permanence. “The one thing that’s truly exciting and neat is that it is here forever—it is absolutely here forever in the community,” he said. “You can’t say that about some entities.”
His forecast for 2016 is simple—it is going to be exciting. “Sherry Ristau will be in her second year as CEO,” he said. “She worked extremely hard her first year laying the ground work and meeting people. This year will be even more productive because she certainly has the work ethic and honesty. She likes people and she likes to do good, and that’s the mark of a good CEO.”
And, he said, the Community Foundation’s Board “is as good as we've ever been,” he said, which means the organization can be purposeful in its plans.
“When you look at all these things, we are positioned to do a lot of good in 2016,” he said.