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Nothing can replace face-to-face networking

A couple of weeks ago, Julie Buck and I traveled to Champaign to attend the quarterly Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations meeting. The theme of the two-day event was innovation.

It started out with an overview of the changes made to revitalize downtown Champaign over the past couple of decades.

Although they still have some projects in the works, I can tell you downtown Champaign is modernized but still charming, and home to more than 40 locally owned restaurants.

What they have done to their downtown area truly is amazing given how difficult it can be for municipalities to keep downtowns bustling with big-box restaurants and retailers.

In addition, we were able to hear about some new and innovative programs happening at University of Illinois and Carle Illinois School of Medicine, as well as community coalitions within the Champaign area created to combat community issues such as violence and social injustice. However, as always, one of my favorite parts about these two days is listening to my colleagues share what is new within their community foundations.

Our gang often jokes if you have seen one community foundation, you’ve seen one community foundation. Although at the simplest level our foundations are the same, we all are very different in our programs, size, grant-making and role in the community.

We at the Community Foundation of Grundy County take an active role as a convener when a need arises, whereas other foundations choose not to. We all have different grant cycles, fund sizes, causes in our community that take priority and leadership roles within the community, because each of our communities are so very different.

The past few years we at the Community Foundation of Grundy County have had a focus on youth. We began and continue to lead several young philanthropy groups, convene the Grundy Partnership for Children, and, along with partners from the Business Education Council, have implemented an Eighth-Grade Career Fair and Certificate of Employability. For years, we have talked about and even tried to start a giving circle with no success. We also have tried to convene young professionals, but that also didn’t take off.

While at the Alliance of Illinois Community Foundations meeting,
a colleague discussed their community foundation’s giving circle comprised of leaders in their 30s.

This mixed with a few ideas from others got me brainstorming. And this is why I find so much value in attending meetings where I am face to face with those who have a similar role to me in sharing ideas. I’m not sure if my ideas will go anywhere, but stay tuned as I try!

If you have the ability to be part of a networking group or event either at the local or national level,
I highly recommend you make every effort to do so.

If you are looking to get more involved in networking events or collaborative efforts in Grundy County, we at the Community Foundation of Grundy County would be happy to connect you to others within the community who already have established groups. Similarly, we know some organizations do not have conference or professional development budgets.

We’d be happy to connect you to resources available that may make it possible for your organization to get outside of Grundy County to gain new ideas and perspective.

• Devan Gagliardo is the program director of the Community Foundation of Grundy Country. She can be reached at 815-941-0852 or

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