In the last few years, between the COVID-19 pandemic and the May 2022 tornado, the limits of Otsego County’s philanthropic Community have been stretched.
“Otsego County has a responsive culture that can come together and address immediate or urgent community needs. While all involved are touched by the spontaneous unity when the adrenalin wares, we are left in a fragile state that perpetuates survival mode. The truth is if we continue on this path, thriving is impossible, and we will just get by day to day.”-Dana Bensinger, OCF Executive Director.
As in most challenging times, our strengths emerged, and so did gaps, providing us with tremendous opportunities for growth. In the early days of the pandemic, local nonprofits needed funding as they scrambled to deliver services safely. The OCF established the Covid-19 Fund, a temporary fix, which filled gaps and supported nonprofits’ work, allowing them to focus on their mission and innovative solutions to support the hospitality industry.
It became clear that local non-profits need support to build capacity over time as well. To be more effective, local organizations need to possess the capability to respond quickly in the face of an emergency and act strategically over time. It is important that our local non-profits are proactive in creating more long-term solutions to meet our community’s needs.
“Amid our emergency response efforts, the OCF has been mapping out a new course to guide our work. Imagine if we came together not only to respond but to be proactive and plan. Imagine if our efforts weren’t only focused on placing band-aids on wounds but addressing the root issues that cause the wounds. Imagine if we had resources available to invest in opportunities to advance not only piece together response efforts.”-Dana Bensinger
The Way Forward is how the OCF intends to move from band-aid positioning to building a lasting foundation brick by brick to address the issues facing Otsego County.
This is more than a short-term fund-raising event. This is a long-term strategic shift to create pathways of generosity so that donations of all sizes can make the most impact in our community. It is a way to transform the tremendous philanthropy of this area into solutions that can only come from people who live here.
Thanks to the tremendous philanthropic nature of this community, we have secured 2.5 M in pledges to increase Funds for the Community, which nearly doubles our grant-making capability. We don’t want to stop there. As these flexible and far-reaching funds grow, so does our ability to affect lasting change.
As we began to reimagine how to make impactful changes in Otsego County, we had to understand the issues facing our community. After consulting with local experts, holding focus groups, researching local issues, and relying on our local non-profits, we have identified five sustainable development goals (SDGs) which will be our focus for grand-making efforts over the next 10 years. The SDGs are:
- Fight poverty and hunger
- Ensure quality education
- Foster good health for all
- Protect life on land
- Expand innovation and infrastructure
Over 80 donors were part of this behind-the-scenes effort and gifts came in all shapes (multi-year pledges, stocks, etc.) and sizes (starting at $25). Whether you choose to give a one-time gift to the Community Fund or start a named Fund for the Community you have an opportunity to make an impact!
This month, we are featuring two donors, Susie Stuewer and Bob Wilson, who chose to give in different ways.
Susie’s late husband, Randy Piper, established the Bensinger Family Fund as a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) three years ago. Recently, Susie converted this fund into a Fund for the Community. This was an easy decision for Susie as the fund’s administrator. Now, she knows that the Bensinger Family Fund can go toward a pool of money that “goes where it’s needed.” “And, says Susie, “they don’t have to take their time selling me on it. You have to have faith that they know where the need is.”
Susie has called Otsego County home since the 1970’s, served on the school board for 18 years, and is active in her church. Yet despite having such far-reaching roots in this community, she admits that her view of what is needed to strengthen Otsego County is limited. “My sense of the community is mine. It’s a narrow vision. They see the whole picture and can see where the needs are.”
Bob Wilson echoes Susie’s sentiments and wants his “dollar to go where it needs to be.” He chose to donate to The Community Fund, one of the Funds for the Community. As a City Council member, OCF Board member, OCF Grant Committee member, former United Way Board Member, and longtime Otsego County resident, Bob is committed to strengthening his beloved community. “This is home. I feel comfortable here. I feel blessed to live here.”
Giving back is important to Bob because “I grew up in that person’s shoes. I know what it was like.”
If you would like to learn more about the OCF, call our office at 989-731-0597 or visit our website: www.otsegofoundation.org.