PRESIDENT’S COLUMN: Looking back – and forward!
By CORBY FICHTER
Hello to all our Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation donors, followers, and readers of our website! I wanted to provide all of you with a review of our activities in 2020, and to also share some of our plans for 2021.
The board of directors just recently had our planning session where we reviewed our accomplishments from 2020 and set goals for the upcoming year.
As we all can acknowledge, 2020 was a year none of us will ever forget. Our COVID environment is something none of us would have thought could ever happen. As tough as it has been and still is, it also provided us all a chance to embrace what is most important to all of us – our family, friends, and quite frankly, each of us as we go about our day serving one another.
The biggest and best accomplishment for our foundation during the year was having a relationship with each one of you. Without your donations, your contributions, your financial gifts, whether “large” or “small,” none of the accomplishments of 2020 would have been possible. We cannot do what we do without your financial support, whether this past year or in the future. So, thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for partnering with us.
So, what is our “Top Ten” list for 2020?
Hiring of Jamie Burdorf as our executive director. From my perspective, this is actually one of the best things that has happened for the foundation since our inception. Jamie is a tremendous asset and partner in our foundation. If you have not had a chance to visit with or get to know Jamie, I hope you will someday soon. She is a gem and will greatly serve our foundation and all of you as donors and future donors.
We added Paula Brownlee to our board of directors. Paula replaced Steve Lorimer who decided to step down in 2020. Steve was one of our founding board members and we greatly appreciate his time and commitment and ideas he provided. We’ll miss him, but we are also excited to have Paula join us, and she already is bringing a wealth of thoughts and ideas to our foundation. We are looking forward to serving many years together with Paula.
We met our “Family Challenge” requirement that we find 25 families during 2020 to pledge a $10,000 donation over the next 10 years! One of the best “things” about this campaign isn’t necessarily the funds it provides, although we really appreciate those financial gifts. But it has really been inspiring to hear all the stories about why the families decided to join the Family Challenge. And then those stories absolutely promote more families joining the challenge in the future. Just a quick plug for our Family Challenge: Would you please be one of the next 25 families to join us in 2021? We would love to have you join us!
The continued financial support from one of our anonymous donors. I can’t tell you more now, but the support of this donor is awesome and so greatly appreciated.
We began a partnership with the George S. & Grace A. Jay Memorial Trust that enables the foundation to offer scholarships for graduating high school students who are furthering their educations. We are so grateful for this partnership, as it allows us to help more of our students who desire to continue learning.
Financially, we were able to begin a long- term investment strategy that will provide more growth in our endowment for years to come. We have a plan in place that can provide some financial security and safety, as well as endowment growth, via a mix of stocks and bonds and other investments.
We were able to completely overhaul our website to provide all of you a better design and enhanced readability, as you follow our foundation’s activities and growth.
We increased our “giving” to our teachers by stepping up from mini-grants to grants. It is just another way that we can enhance learning and opportunities for students and teachers in the Shenandoah Community Schools.
We had a video produced by some of our own Shenandoah High School students that promoted our school district’s communities, shared widely with the public during this past fall’s Homecoming celebration. Very well done!
Finally, did you know that our endowment is now approaching almost $500,000? Well, if you didn’t, now you do.
I want to explain this $500,000 endowment so all of you fully understand this amount. This is the amount of funds we currently have in our long-term investments and our checking account. This includes designated funds for scholarships, it includes funds that have been donated with no particular purpose but for us as the foundation board to use to accomplish our vision to enhance educational excellence in the Shenandoah schools. This does not include pledges that have been made for our Family Challenge – only the funds that have actually been received.
And let me say this one more time: None of these accomplishments would have happened without all your financial and other support. And to be able to do all of this in a COVID environment, simply amazing. Thank you!
So, now what for 2021 you may ask?
Well, here are our priorities and goals for this calendar year:
Involving another 25 families in matching our Family Challenge.
We know we have at least one more new scholarship that will be revealed soon, and our goal will be to encourage and support that scholarship. We will see funds donated for this scholarship from many new donors, who are graduates of Shenandoah High School, in support of this new scholarship. More to come on this one, and we are excited for the next steps on it!
We want to find ways to enhance our relationships with our existing donors and new ones alike. We will continue working with Jamie Burdorf on how we are reaching you via website, social media, newsletter, emails, and personal letters to people that live and work in the Shenandoah area, as well as the many people who went to school here, now live at a distance but still think of the Shenandoah area as “home.”
We will expand our current grants program for teachers’ special projects, in both dollars and the activities we will help fund.
We are working on a list of potential school projects or needs – including some larger ones – that might have special interest for some donors. We are working on that list and will make it available in the near future.
We are considering some other events or promotions to support, like finding a way to promote the history of the Shenandoah schools, maybe having alumni awards, golf events, another “fun run” event and other possibilities. We expect to be involved in “Shenfest” next fall, especially since it will be a celebration of Shenandoah’s 150th year anniversary as a community.
Jamie Burdorf will be looking for opportunities in applying for some grants, for which our foundation may qualify, as we move on in 2021.
We do know we need to provide some additional financial information for all of you on our website. We will do that in 2021. We are in the process of determining what financial reporting we need to do for all of you.
One other topic I want to mention, board member Amy Miller will be succeeding Nick Bosley as treasurer of our foundation. Nick will remain on the board, but he has chosen to turn over the treasurer’s duties. He has been a valued member of our board since our start, and his help getting us to where we are today in our financial operations has been tremendous. Nick wants to spend more time with his family, and as we all know, family comes first, period. We thank him for all he’s done and will continue to do for our foundation. And we look forward to having Amy Miller’s leadership as treasurer in 2021.
This update is long enough. We have a ton to be thankful for and we are so thankful for each one of you. We have big goals, but we know with all your help, we can accomplish them. On behalf of our entire foundation board, we wish you all a very prosperous and great 2021! If you have any questions or would like to donate for a specific cause or scholarship, or just for the general endowment, please reach out to any one of us on the board.
Corby Fichter, the author of this column, has served as the president of the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation from its start. You can write to him directly by email at Corby.Fichter@fcsamerica.com, or reach him by phone at (712) 621-2386.