Richard Ober, president and CEO

Oliver Hubbard of Walpole read an article one day about the ravages of substance abuse among young people and couldn’t get it out of his head. The New Futures Funds

Lucille Wagner worked in the cafeteria at Nashua High School until a paralyzing fall and a winning lottery ticket changed the path of her life forever. The Fund for Accessible Living

Penny Pitou might never have won two Olympic medals and appeared on the cover of Life if not for the generosity of her Lakes Region community, which she never forgot. The Penny Pitou and Milo Pike Charitable Fund

When Dick Lavalliere returned to Manchester from service in Vietnam, he learned the value of practical education by teaching welding. The Medallion Fund

Neil Tillotson launched a global latex empire with $720 and a toy balloon, but his heart and his legacy remained in his beloved North Country. The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund

At a time when some viewed working artists as superfluous to “redevelopment” in Portsmouth, the Haas family recognized them as core drivers for economic vitality. The Artist Advancement Fund

The Upper Valley’s clean air and pastoral landscapesinspired Marguerite Wellborn to bestow her childhood love of nature to thousands of young people she will never meet. The Wellborn Ecology Fund

Seven people. Seven reasons to give back. Seven funds at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

This year our foundation turns 50. What started in 1962 as a short-term trust to distribute the estate of former Gov. Huntley Spaulding and his family has grown into a permanent powerhouse of inspired community philanthropy. For three generations, generous Granite Staters have come here to connect with the state’s most effective organizations, ideas, and people.

The numbers are staggering: 1,675 funds, 5,018 grants and scholarships to 1,386 organizations and 1,713 students in 2011. Nine boards engaging 120 volunteers in grantmaking and community building. All in service of building stronger communities.

This year, at events and online and in our newsletter, we honor the vision and determination of those who made it possible — donors, nonprofit leaders, partners from government and business, everyday citizens.

Just as the founders of this remarkable institution envisioned a need that was ahead of their time — pooling charitable assets for greater impact — so must we imagine what is next.

Here’s what’s been on my mind.

While our extraordinary state still ranks very high in public safety, per capita income, educational achievement, health, civic engagement, and employment, we need to look beyond the headlines. These average indicators don’t reflect growing geographic and socioeconomic disparity. Simply put, our enviable quality of life is increasingly out of reach for too many of our neighbors. And too many trends, as I pointed out in this space last time, are going the wrong way.

Yes, New Hampshire residents are better educated, healthier, wealthier, and more civically engaged than Americans as a whole. That’s good. But we have the largest student debt load in the country, the third-highest teen drinking rate, and among the lowest public investments in arts and the environment. Even our historically high rates of civic engagement have dropped in recent years.

Few institutions have the bandwidth to grapple with these long-term trends. State and city officials are struggling to make up for deep budget cuts. Nonprofits have scant reserves and hugely increased client loads. Businesses run quarter to quarter.

Unlike most of today’s institutions, our foundation has both the ability and the responsibility to think in decades and generations: to be a long-term partner in a short-term world. So while 2012 is our 50th anniversary, we’re already looking ahead to 2062 and our 100th. Not that most of us will be here, which is precisely the point. Oliver Hubbard died before he could see the state’s teen drinking rate finally dip down. Lucille Wagner could not have known Rebecca Barham or hundreds of others with disabilities who live at home thanks in part to grants from her fund. Marguerite Wellborn didn’t prescribe how to promote environmental awareness; she just knew it was needed. That’s looking ahead and giving back. That’s vision.

What do we see when we look ahead? We envision strong, just, and resilient communities where…

  • All residents have quality health care, food, housing, and other critical needs;
  • Students of all ages improve their lives through appropriate education and job training opportunities;
  • Significant environmental assets are permanently protected and available for long-term public benefit;
  • Arts and culture organizations preserve heritage, celebrate self-expression, and foster appreciation of diversity;
  • Economic opportunity is available to all; and
  • Residents give back to their communities and engage meaningfully in civic life.

These aspirations pull us forward as we enter our second half-century. We will connect passionate donors more effectively with meaningful solutions to community challenges. We will add value to every charitable dollar entrusted to us through sound investment and strategic leverage. We will encourage greater collaboration among nonprofits and reward innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. We will lead and support public-private initiatives to advance sensible public policy. We will deepen our understanding about what works and share it broadly.

Philanthropy, it has been said, is society’s passing gear.

Onward.


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