Truth of the Trade: Community Foundations

Michael Chatman, CEO of the Cape Coral Community Foundation, shares what these organizations are really like.

Michael Chatman [PHOTO: Courtesy of the Cape Coral Community Foundation]

It’s easy to judge another industry from the outside, with ideas formed by what we see on TV, hear on the news or experience through our friends. But not all stories and stereotypes are true. The best way to debunk myths about an industry? Turning to those who know it best.

The Myth: All community foundations are large.

The Truth: “In our industry, 60 percent of community foundations have less than $20 million in assets under management,” says Michael Chatman, CEO of the Cape Coral Community Foundation.

The organization has more than $11 million in assets under management, compared with the Community Foundation of Collier County’s nearly $174 million and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s $126.7 million, according to 2018 reports.

“Most community foundations that are small are actually more about community development than they are grant-making,” Chatman adds.

The Cape Coral Community Foundation often helps nonprofits find success through training, from board development to cash-flow management.

“We work with nonprofits to help them build their own endowments so they can have more money to sustain their operation, as opposed to being totally reliant on community foundations—or foundations in general—for grant money,” he says.

For instance, the Cape Coral Community Foundation once helped the Rotary Club of Cape Coral Gold Coast increase its endowment by $42,000 in one year by showing donors who already supported them how they could maximize their contributions, rather than have the club compete for a portion funds elsewhere.

“That is something that surprises a lot of people about our work—we’re not really a grant-making foundation, we’re a community development foundation, and that’s the thing that makes us different,” Chatman says.