Real Time: A Community Building Blog

Welcome to Real Time, a community building blog that seeks to provoke thought, encourage conversation, and help our friends and colleagues understand what goes on "behind the scenes" at the Maine Community Foundation.

Measures of Growth, Levels of Distress

Data is my friend. I hear this from my colleagues in the foundation world, from many members of the staff at the Maine Community Foundation, and I know it from my own experience. Data reminds me of Aroostook farmer Andy Ayer's mantra "If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”   I realize that much of our work at MaineCF does not always lend itself to quick and easy quantification, but we have dedicated more time and resources to using data (both quantitative and qualitative) to shape decision-making. Next month we will be mailing a copy of Measuring Up, a Maine Community Foundation special report – with data – that outlines our work toward achieving our vision of a high quality of life for all Maine people. You can download a copy of the report at our website As I dug into my growing reading pile the other day, it was with more than a passing interest that I picked out Measures of Growth 2015, a publication of the Maine Economic Growth Council and the Maine Deve ...

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Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2015

Take Me Out to the Budget Game

I can’t decide which of the following nail-biting dramas is more important – or more interesting: These first few games of the 2015 baseball season, especially last Friday night’s 19-inning win over the Evil Empire, or the competing budget and tax proposals making their way through the Maine Legislature. Both make for great theater, are annual rites of spring (such as it is), have high-stakes outcomes, and – if history is any predictor – yield an ending that will sorely disappoint (for one side or the other). Is the Red Sox win in New York last Friday a sign of good things to come? Does agreement between the Ds and Rs about the importance of tax reform signal across-the-aisle compromise and agreement? I haven’t a clue. The Magic 8 Ball knows but is not telling. There is little disagreement among experts about the need for fundamental tax reform, some agreement about the ultimate outcome, and lots of disagreement about the approach. I’m not a tax expert, but some ...

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Posted: Monday, April 13, 2015

What's a Leader to Do?

Leadership is a topic of both personal and professional interest. It is one of three goals in the Maine Community Foundation’s Plan for the Future, and it is an essential component of the vibrant communities that we at the foundation spend every day thinking about and nurturing. Last week, I participated in a panel discussion focused on women’s leadership, the first in a weeklong series of events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Maine and the installation on March 26 of the university’s first woman president, Dr. Susan Hunter. Moderated by Carol Kim, the university’s vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, the panel included Emily Cain, Elizabeth Sutherland, and me.   To prepare for the panel, we were encouraged to read about Centered Leadership, the work of Joanna Barsh of McKinsey & Co. Through years of data collection, study, and evaluation, Barsh has identified five characteristics of the most effective leaders. They are: ...

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Posted: Monday, March 30, 2015

Ms. Young Goes to Washington

I often say that Maine is the place to be every month of the year…except March. That’s why I enthusiastically volunteered to visit Washington, D.C., to promote philanthropy last week at the aptly named Foundations on the Hill. As Congress considers tax reform and the new budget, participants went to the Hill to highlight how communities depend on a full set of philanthropic tools to meet pressing needs. My visit was filled with legislative briefings and meetings in the offices of Maine’s four senators and representatives. In addition to telling stories of the impact of philanthropy in Maine and the generosity of our inspiring donors, I also promoted the charitable deduction, the importance of donor-advised funds, and the need to make the charitable IRA rollover permanent. Good news on that last item: Senator Susan Collins is co-sponsoring a bill to make the charitable IRA rollover a permanent philanthropic option. My biggest surprise from this visit was the number of Hill staffers who ...

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Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What Would Ellen Do?

My colleague Ellen Pope is retiring after more than 16 years at the foundation. Her departure at the end of March falls on the heels of our co-worker Pam Cleghorn’s retirement last December and precedes my own intention to step down at the end of this year. With a combined 48 years of philanthropic wisdom and knowledge, we three – among the most senior staff in terms of tenure, age, and hair color – are also among the most outspoken and opinionated. Will the foundation survive our departures? You bet. Rest assured we leave behind a fabulous group of fully capable, talented colleagues who will be joined by my successor. It is they who will shepherd the foundation to its next future. Ellen and I have been two peas in the proverbial pod since I was elected president in 2009. Our unique styles complement one another; together they’ve made magic. She is the best project manager ever, able to pay equal attention to the product and the process. She makes lists. She is prepared. She can disa ...

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Posted: Monday, March 09, 2015

Is Attitude Everything?

With gale force winds and swirling snow that has found its way underneath the front door into the hallway here at 7 Cedar, I think I will explode if my sainted spouse says one more time with a snarky smile that attitude is everything. It’s too dangerous to venture out on the road, too cold and windy to ski or run (a few of my other not-so-favorite activities), and with the forecast for more snow on Wednesday, I am forced to dig into my deepest reserves to exhibit a positive outlook. This bi-weekly blog provides me with a platform to whine about the weather, brag about the cool things taking place in communities throughout the state, promote generosity, and invite readers to join me in exploring some of the ideas and issues Maine faces. Today’s bleak and stark white view from my dining room window, compounded by a book and article sent to me by different colleagues who must figure I’m at a point in my life that I need to pay attention, provoke a few thoughts about attitude. Atul Gawande ...

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Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Jones Family Christmas Challenge V

The Penobscot River Restoration Project was just one choice for the Jones Family Christmas Challenge. Photo courtesy Penobscot River Restoration Trust The Jones Family Christmas Challenge is back, and it’s time for you to vote on the best gift. Now in its fifth and final year, the Challenge engages multiple generations of my extended family in philanthropy. In a new twist, participants were invited to make a gift in honor of the person seated next to them at the dinner table. In order to make that gift meaningful, there were a few preliminary questions to ask the honoree: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? What made it so special? What’s the best gift you’ve ever given to someone else? Why was it so special? If you had a lot of money to give away, what organization, cause, or issue would you give it to? Why? Family members range in age from eight to 70+, and I was interested in the relationship between and among age, experience, home location, and ...

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Posted: Monday, February 02, 2015

A Case of Impact Investing

Economic development is at the center of the Maine Community Foundation’s strategic priorities. We believe greater access to lower cost capital will allow entrepreneurs and innovators from both the nonprofit and for-profit world to grow enterprises and expand projects that build off our natural assets, revitalize our downtowns, and strengthen our economy. To make that happen, the foundation is partnering with its donors to build two new impact investing pools that will focus first on impact and second on generating returns. The Farms, Fisheries and Food pool is improving access to capital for entrepreneurs and organizations working in agriculture- and fisheries-related businesses and projects. The Downtown and Business Development pool is directing capital to businesses and nonprofits, especially in underserved markets, to support enterprise development and improve downtown buildings. A recent agriculture-related investment illustrates how the foundation is putting impact investing capital to w ...

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Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The 2015 Real Time Trivia Contest

If evening walkers were to cast their eyes into my living room windows after 7:00 p.m. and expect to see two adults glued to the television screen, they’d be sorely disappointed. Instead, they’d find me stretched out on the couch trying to wrap my sluggish brain and sleepy eyes around Colin Woodard’s book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (a must-read says former MaineCF board member and avid reader Lisa Heyward). They’d also find my sainted husband Dana sitting straight up, totally immersed in the Historical Atlas of Maine, a recent publication of the University of Maine Press. The atlas was more than a decade in the making and is filled with colorful and descriptive maps and charts that chronicle Maine’s geography from the last ice age to the year 2000. I am easily distracted (just ask my work colleagues), so with each “aha” uttered by my engrossed (and not easily distracted) spouse, I respond, “What?” ...

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Posted: Monday, January 12, 2015

Issues of Giving

Meredith Jones and her granddaughter, Meredith. Among my favorite journalists (in addition to Bill Nemitz and Colin Woodard, of course) was The Washington Post’s David Broder, whose year-end column often took a retrospective peak into the past. It is in that same vein that I recently reread and will repeat a few thoughts from two 2014 blog entries that have stuck with me. Last week I listened to NPR science reporter Shankar Vedantam report on the good feelings generated by the act of giving. I’ve heard this before, and I witnessed it recently when I watched my eight-year-old granddaughter and namesake, totally unprompted, purchase a Christmas gift for her mum. While her initial selections were a choice between earrings in the shape of dolphins or diminutive teddy bears, my granddaughter’s final decision – shiny blue faux gemstones – was what she thought her mother (not she) would like the best. She borrowed $8.97 from me, quietly asked the store clerk to gift wrap her purcha ...

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Posted: Monday, December 29, 2014
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Recent Comments

  1. Re: What Would Ellen Do?

    A wonderful and appropriate tribute to Ellen who played such a key role for many years to make Maine...

    -- Hank Schmelzer

  2. Re: What Would Ellen Do?

    Meredith,What a fitting tribute to an exceptional colleague. As a Board member, Chair and donor, I have...

    -- Ken Spirer

  3. Re: The Jones Family Christmas Challenge V

    Harris has my vote with young Meredith second. It is wonderful that you and your family make this "giving...

    -- Karen Hartt

  4. Re: What Would Ellen Do?

    Meredith, you have honored Ellen perfectly. Those of us in Maine's communities may not witness the day...

    -- Linda Cross Godfrey

  5. Re: What Would Ellen Do?

    My wife and I have had the pleasure of working with Ellen establishing a number of funds at the Maine...

    -- Leonard Minsky

  6. Re: What Would Ellen Do?

    As one of many who benefitted from Ellen's wisdom and grace, I join the chorus of thankful admirers wishing...

    -- Carol Wishcamper

  7. Re: What Would Ellen Do?

    Ellen had been an indispensable member of MCF since the day she arrived and began putting emphasis on...

    -- Merton G. Henry

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