November 17, 2008

Westhaven Foundation Launched! - Westhaven Register, by Matt Maggallanes

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt Eleanor’s quote above is the perfect prefatory for this background on the Westhaven Foundation. As a believer, I suppose one of the best chances I’ll ever have to preach to the choir is writing this story for The Westhaven Register. But what does preaching to the choir really accomplish? So before doing so, I have a question for you, the proverbial choir: What forces could spoil what is special about Westhaven over time? You might be surprised by my choices of expectation, security and contentment. How could these things be bad… don’t we strive for these attributes in our community? Maybe the following experience will help explain my choices. A couple years ago in my role at Southern Land I received an eloquent letter from a Westhaven neighbor. This carefully crafted appeal contained no grammatical errors and was neatly hand-written on personal stationery. She addressed a 3-foot tall weed growing from a crack in a lovely stone bridge near her home where she regularly walked. Punctuated with detailed timelines the letter clearly required significant time to write, so I resolved to remedy the situation that very evening on my way home. Stepping from my idling car I yanked the offending herb from the wall and dropped it into the ditch below, which took all of 10 seconds. This made we wonder. Why would this lovely person be inspired to write a long letter as opposed to simply pulling the weed? After much thought I began to understand it was a lack of empowerment rooted in her perceived role of a resident. After all, pulling weeds is somebody else’s job. As residents, our high expectations, strong sense of security and general contentment make it possible to assume the future of Westhaven will be just fine. Somebody will continue to take care of everything. But the developer will leave some day and we will be on our own. There will be a changing of the guard from “old” Westhaven to new, and Westhaven is going to get a lot bigger. From experience I can tell you there will also be extreme pressure by a minority to dumb down the community through aggressive cost cutting when SLC exits. To keep our dream alive some began to realize that in spite of our contentment we residents must plan for the future now. Coming to that realization was itself rather serendipitous. Right after I received that thought-provoking letter, Charlie Grimes and Mark McCutcheon invited me to meet and discuss Charlie’s idea for a black-tie fundraiser. Mark was already pondering how to entice new residents to get involved in charitable and non-HOA programs as the community grew. I was wondering how to be ready for a seamless turnover when SLC left. Considering all 3 ideas led to discussing a non-profit entity that could survive us. We knew instinctively this entity should not be integrated with the developer and should remain separate from the Residents’ Association to ensure the best result. Our dream was an entity founded to ensure residents are empowered and financially prepared to be stewards of the Westhaven ideal… forever. After consulting community foundations and experts we decided to move ahead. But how? We knew one of the more difficult things is transitioning, as they say, “from creed to deed.” To solve the conundrum would require unhurried engagement. We would need to carefully define, assess, critique, legalize and then launch. We made a decision to form a broader visioning committee to ensure success. (See photo of earliest meetings). That visioning committee first garnered the support of SLC. We later discovered Westhaven planners had included provisions for a foundation in the community agreements, which was a big help. SLC graciously funded our selected visioning consulting firm, The Seaside Institute’s Tomlinson-Graham group to guide the execution of the idea. Seaside Institute had broad experience forming community foundations and made it clear the most important step was getting a complete understanding of what the residents wanted. That understanding they told us, would define our mission and scope. The 6-month process involved a wide representation of residents participating in detailed visioning and planning meetings. These sessions were reasonably fun, and it was extremely interesting to learn about our neighbor’s aspirations and desires for community life and charity. The intelligence, awareness and generosity expressed were humbling to say the least. This distillation of ideas led to a remarkable surprise: Westhaven residents were as passionate about supporting outside charities in Williamson County as within their own neighborhood. Developing this depth of understanding resulted in a Foundation charter which is representative of many Westhaven residents. Another key step was creating legal structure to ensure fiduciary stewardship and oversight by defining governance, funding and mission. Again, with financial support from SLC the committee turned to the Center for Non-profit Management, here in Nashville. After about 18 months we finalized the current foundation charter and bylaws and have officially launched the Westhaven Foundation as we know it today. In fact, we just received our official IRS recognitions as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit corporation. Our inaugural Officers and Board are honored to have this opportunity to represent Westhaven and launch our programs. We are now focusing on communicating the mission and building our core base of volunteers and supporters. In addition to current officers and trustees the Foundation will maintain specialized advisory groups to support fundraising, cultural arts, education, citizenship and volunteerism. Smaller teams can move quickly and make recommendations to the trustees for funding and programs, as well as bring higher levels of focus and expertise to their projects. This also spreads the work around. As you consider your level of participation consider the basic objectives of the Foundation. We hope they invigorate you: 1. Inspire citizenship and community involvement through educational efforts and financial support of programs that promote citizenship. 2. Act as a catalyst for fundraising success by mobilizing volunteers and funding selected non-profit or public organizations. 3. Build an endowment to help Westhaven meet future needs, including a successful transition upon exit of the developer, preserving the culture, and supporting key charities and programs for generations to come. We’re happy to say that some program work has already begun. The Foundation is now operating a website that enables charitable event coordinators to receive donations, sell tickets, organize volunteers and promote their events online. (This is a catalyst function.) For example, the 3rd annual Westhaven Holiday Home tour (an event conceived and managed by your fellow residents) is planning to use the site, saving them time and money. Additionally, the Foundation will help provide volunteers for the home tour, enhancing the success of the program. In the future, we could be in a position to donate funds as well. All without direct Southern Land Company involvement. There are 3 primary funding methods for the Foundation. These are: 1. The collection of transfer fees upon the purchase of a home in Westhaven. 2. Foundation Affiliate programs (like memberships) for those that want to be sustaining donors and/or be actively involved in the foundation operations and events. 3. Fundraising programs, including events, solicitations, gifts and grants. The transfer fees are used to fund the endowment primarily. Donations from Southern Land Company, residents and others will support the early programs and operations, including charitable donations. For details on the funding and donating process please visit the website noted below. Current donation plans include funding of the arts, music, local schools, grants, scholarships, heritage, civic development and regional cultural programs. Full details on the mission, governance, board and program development can also be found on the Foundation website. If you are interested in becoming involved with the Westhaven Foundation please contact the foundation board. We will be reaching out to the community soon and are currently seeking volunteer board members for key committees. And now to preach to the choir! We love Westhaven. A place where people care about people and their community. It is a unique and life-changing place for many of us, and we want to preserve the culture for generations to come. The Westhaven Foundation is dedicated to making Westhaven and the surrounding community an even better place to live. Thanks to those folks who have donated and helped get us to this point, we could not have come this far without you. And Dear Choir: Please dare to believe by supporting the Westhaven Foundation and working hand-in-hand with your neighbors to ensure the dream stays alive… forever. Visit our website to volunteer, donate or just to get up to speed. The Westhaven Foundation: Center for Non-profit Management: Tomlinson-Graham Group: The Seaside Institute: www.