Jane Clover Alexander, President and CEO, Community Foundation for Mississippi (CFM), spoke to the Rotary Club of North Jackson at the club’s June 2, 2020, meeting. Alexander is a graduate of Millsaps College with a Bachelor of Arts in History. She received a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Mississippi. She has been President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Mississippi and its predecessor organization, The Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, since August 2012.

Per Alexander, a community foundation is a platform for building community and enhancing the quality of life of its residents. It is a place where donors can connect with causes they care about and create a lasting legacy. The CFM is a tax-exempt public charity created by and for the people of Mississippi. It serves 22 counties in central and southwest parts of the state. The CFM was first organized in 1994 with a gift of $200,000. Today it has more than 275 funds and $60 million in charitable assets. The first community foundation was established in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. There are more than 800 community foundations in America and 7 in the state of Mississippi. 

A community foundation has three special features: personalized service, local expertise, and community leadership. Community leadership involves disaster relief and recovery,. For example, Community foundations have mobilized more than#312 million is Covid-19 relief since the beginning of the pandemic. In Mississippi, there is the  Community Response & Recovery Fund formed in partnership with Volunteer Mississippi to pool donations from corporations, foundations, and individual donors. To date, $500,000 has been raised and will be deployed statewide to the other community foundations and other partners. Donors to this fund include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations, the Walker Family Foundations, Arnold Ventures LLC, Atmos Energy, and countless Mississippians. Community leadership also includes place-based grantmaking. For Example, at CFM, the John F. and Lucy E. Shackelford Fund is a bequest of almost $9 million designated to make permanent enhancements for downtown Jackson. Since 2017, the Shackelford Fund has granted $2.25 million to a range of projects including the Museum of Mississippi History, the Mississippi Arts Center, Thalia Mara Hall, the Art Garden of the Mississippi Museum of Art, Capital Street lighting, Greenwood Cemetery, and other similar projects.

The CFM provides a variety of tools for building communities. Available charitable funds include unrestricted funds, field of interest funds, designated funds, and donor-advised funds. Funds can be created in any of these categories by an initial commitment of $25,000. The funds can be created with a wide variety of assets. 

Alexander closed her presentation with two simple thoughts:

  • Community foundations are among the fastest growing and most accessible forms of philanthropy in the United States today

  • “Don’t let anyone else hold the pen.” attributed to Harley Davidson

We thank Alexander for her presentation and for her service to the citizens of Mississippi. She is shown during her presentation to the club.