December 04, 2020

Lessons from a Typical Year

From Alex Eaton

In years to come, we may look back at 2020 as just a typical year. While it is certainly not typical compared to years past, I believe in many ways, this year will come to reflect part of our reality moving forward. 

Rest assured, I am not predicting waves of pandemics in the decades to come. COVID-19 will ultimately fade, and the world will recalibrate into three dimensions again. But that old aphorism, “the one constant is change,” will continue to shape our truth day to day. 

As we know, our society is developing at an ever-increasing speed - Moore’s Law fully extrapolated. As we work to collectively understand what all this change and advancement truly means, we do know one thing: community challenges will keep coming, be difficult to predict, and be complicated to manage. 

However, I view the future with incredible possibility. Uncertainty and complexity are not adversaries; what lies ahead offers immense opportunity and hope for us all. Working every day in philanthropy, I am surrounded by hope. The field embodies it, and I have witnessed countless acts of compassion, generosity, and creativity that have reminded me how bright our collective future can be. 

From January through October of this year, our donors at the Community Foundation of Utah granted over $8.2 million to nonprofits, doubling their gifts from the same timeframe in 2019. Even with all the economic uncertainty, this spirit of generosity did not waiver. 

While this year has been immensely challenging for many nonprofits, we have seen it simultaneously spur innovation across the sector. For many organizations, everything from fundraising to service delivery has been transformed, uncovering new opportunities along with the challenges.   

For our part at the Community Foundation of Utah, 2020 opened new chapters in our journey towards more impactful philanthropy in our community. From partnering with Mercato’s Savory Fund to keep restaurant workers employed through providing meals to front line workers, to collaborating with Salt Lake City to provide over $1.5 million in cash assistance to residents unable to access traditional public support, this year allowed us to push the bounds of philanthropy and serve as a catalyst for innovation and community impact.

Above all, 2020 has been a year of immense learning and reflection, and it has been a proof of concept for the critical function community foundations serve. We are built for the unexpected, engineered for uncertainty, and created precisely because we cannot predict the future. 2020 is almost over, but in time other challenges will inevitably come and new obstacles will emerge. The Community Foundation of Utah will be here when they do, long past my lifetime, hopeful and ready to serve.