Thursday, September 16, 2010

Nina Waters: Five questions with...

Nina Waters (Class of 1980) currently serves as President of The Community Foundation in Jacksonville, a community of donors and the charitable giving funds they have established to build a better community. With responsibilities including the leadership and management of the donor services, grantmaking services and administrative services functions, the Foundation's assets have have more than doubled and annual grants to the community have grown from $9M to $21M in 2009.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Ms. Waters garnered significant experience in the philanthropic industry as Executive Director for the PACE Center for Girls Jacksonville program. Under her leadership, the initiative expanded its daily enrollment from 40 to 80 students and developed a new, 20,000 square-foot facility.

A native of Pittsburgh, Ms. Waters moved to Jacksonville in 1976 to attend Jacksonville University.

Following her presentation as part of the JU Speakers Series, the Dolphin Network caught up with Ms. Waters to discuss the philanthropy industry.

1. You have been involved in the business-side of philanthropy for nearly 10 years. Can you explain how the industry has evolved over that time?
The Community Foundation in Jacksonville is 46 years old making us the oldest community foundation in Florida. This is an example of just how young philanthropy is in our state. Over the past ten years, our assets have more than doubled. Thanks to philanthropic leaders such as Sherry Magill at the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, the largest independent foundation in our area, and Wayne and Delores Weaver who give generously as individuals as well as through the Jaguars Foundation and the Weaver Family Foundation, philanthropy has grown significantly in Northeast Florida. Local Foundations partnered together to create new organizations - like the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida and the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), that help build the capacity of the nonprofit (independent) sector in our community.

2. Looking back at the numerous people and groups you have been able to assist via grants and funding, do any stick out as your something you were particularly glad you could help grow?
Two bodies of work stand out for me. The first is our investment in the arts. The Community Foundation in Jacksonville will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our Art Ventures program in November. Over the past 20 years, we have made grants to over 90 individual artists and 35 small arts organizations. Our work in public education reform – Quality Education for All - is in its sixth year. We have built two successful partnerships – the Forum on Quality Education and The Learning to Finish collaborative - to address the low graduation rate in Duval County Public Schools. In addition, we raised $2.5M in 2008 to create the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

3. Many alumni are part of a non-profit that may be trying to obtain some funding, either through your organization or another. What are some tips and techniques that you would offer to them in developing a proposal.

The most important thing to remember when developing a grant proposal is to follow directions. This sounds very simple but you would be surprised how many people do not do so. I could tell some stories!!! Answer the questions that are asked as clearly as possible and then give the completed proposal to someone who knows nothing about your organization and see if they understand what you are trying to accomplish and how you will know if you accomplished it.

4. How would you say your time at JU help you in developing a career path and pursuing it? What advice would you offer to upcoming and recent graduates?
Many experiences at JU helped me to realize my full potential. The quality of the academic advising, the individualized attention – especially by professors in my major, the placement in an internship and the ability to participate and hold leadership positions in organizations such as Alpha Delta Pi, Green Key, Homecoming chairman, and many others were invaluable. As far as advice to upcoming and recent graduates – NETWORK. Meet with people, ask your parents and your friends parents to open doors for you. In this age of applying for jobs online, it’s very difficult to have your application stand out. A personal contact makes a tremendous difference.

5. What is the one "takeaway" you hope people that heard your presentation take with them?
When you hit a brick wall (and you will), don’t stop! Figure out a way around it, over it, under it or blast a hole right through it. You can, and when you do, you will be very happy that you did.

For more information on the Community Foundation, CLICK HERE.

For more information on the JU Speakers Series, CLICK HERE.

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