Community Foundation continues to impress

When the Orcas Island Community Foundation asked me to be part of a special project, I immediately said yes. I had a cursory understanding of what it would entail, but it wasn't until our first meeting that it really clicked.

When the Orcas Island Community Foundation asked me to be part of a special project, I immediately said yes. I had a cursory understanding of what it would entail, but it wasn’t until our first meeting that it really clicked.

And then I got very excited.

Thanks to a grant from the Satterberg Foundation, OICF is embarking on a community indicators initiative. There are two goals: align their grant-making decisions with defined community needs, and provide donors with accurate information about pressing needs on Orcas Island.

By tracking over-arching trends – everything from home ownership to incidents of domestic violence to the number of children receiving free and reduced meals – OICF can better distribute money and make a difference in areas that may not be well documented.

“We want to use grant money in a meaningful way,” said OICF Director Hilary Canty.

Jason Robertson, who oversees these kind of projects in Olympia, is heading up the process. OICF gathered a wide range of community members to contribute to the conversation. We brainstormed ideas of indicators for the following topics: health and wellness, economy, housing, education, arts, environment and access to services.

For example, for health, we suggested looking at birth rates, geriatric care, mental health availability and number of EMS calls, to name a few. For education, the list included number of special ed students, early childhood education rates, standardized test scores and graduation statistics.

Robertson said in choosing the final list of indicators for each category, he looks at the following criteria: Can it help tell a story? Can it help move the lever and make a change locally? Is it something that can be tracked by the community foundation for years to come?

Once Robertson narrows the scope, there will be data collection and dissemination and perhaps community surveys. Ultimately, all of the information will be presented in a brochure that OICF intends to update annually. We can’t wait to see trends specific to Orcas Island. Much of the information we have currently is for the county as a whole. Will we be able to shed light on a hidden or under-served demographic or need? We are so impressed that OICF is tackling this giant project.

As this is also National Community Foundation Week, we’d like to thank the organization for its 20 years of thoughtful, structured charitable giving. In 2015, its net assets reached $13 million and grant distribution finished at $1.2 million.

For the holiday season, OICF is launching a special campaign. On Tuesdays from Nov. 24 to Jan. 1, “Flat Lance,” a cardboard cutout of the real Lance Evans from the Orcas Chamber of Commerce, will appear at public locations around town. Islanders are encouraged to take a “selfie” with the cutout. Each Wednesday, real Lance will randomly draw a winner from the Flat Lance selfies. The winner gets to direct money contributed by OICF to their favorite OICF Holiday Catalog ( nonprofit. For more info visit

Here is how to play: Locate the cardboard cutout of Flat Lance (he will be in a different public location each Tuesday from noon to 3 p.m. and at other random days and times too). Take a selfie with Flat Lance. Post it on Facebook; “tag” OICF and the charity name you support and #giveorcas.

Thank you to OICF for the innovative ways it is strengthening our community, and to the generous islanders who give everything from $5 to $50,000. Working and giving together, we make Orcas thrive.

– Colleen Smith Armstrong, publisher