Amy Saxe-Eyler Believes Solutions Come from Making New Connections


Amy Saxe-Eyler has worked in the for-profit, co-op, and non-profit worlds. She feels everything she’s done in the past enables her to do her current job: connecting funds donated out of love to the local tapestry of non-profits that actually meet human needs. Amy is the Executive Director of the San Juan Island Community Foundation.

Her path has led her from Bloomington, Indiana to San Francisco (because she always wanted to live by the ocean) and ultimately to Orcas Island in 2009 and then San Juan Island in 2015.

In a new interview with CNL2, she said, “It sounds like a cliche, but everything really is connected… As a smaller community, we have an opportunity to collaborate… The biggest part of my work is listening to the needs, listening to what people’s interests are, and making those connections to make things happen.”

(7:00) At seven minutes into the interview, Jeff asks Amy, “How are the needs changing here?”

(8:10) Amy addresses the role of ferries here and other major challenges. “The biggest part of the ferry challenges are… is it’s nearly impossible to work off island if you live here… I know people do it, but really is difficult. You lose a big part of your life…

“I don’t think it’s a secret that we have a huge income disparity on the island. And those numbers can be really surprising when you start to look at the number of families that receive reduced-cost lunches at school.

“And housing is one of the biggest crises we have here. It’s getting harder and harder for younger families and families on fixed incomes to stay on the island. It affects people of all ages. There are some efforts to try to address those issues, but it’s going to take some really strong collaboration. And the Community Foundation is going to take more of a lead as we move forward and refresh the ways we work with people and the community on the housing issue. Even if that is convening the right people in the room to have an ongoing conversation about how best to resolve this. There’s not one solution; I think it’s multi-pronged.”

(10:35) Amy explains why community foundations are formed and what they do. She says community foundations are most effective when they include a wide cross section of donors, from large donations to donations from children at events who might give $5 in change from their piggybanks.

(13:00) Amy discusses the approximately $10 million core fund the Foundation manages, and how approximately $1 million is granted out. She explains the difference between “endowed” funds meant to be around in perpetuity and “non-endowed” funds. And donor-advised funds. “There are a lot of moving parts, she said”

(17:25) Amy discusses the role of the 13-member Board of Trustees, including new Board Chairperson John Moalli.

(19:15) Amy discusses the new strategic plan the Foundation is developing. And she discusses how Board vacancies are filled.

(21:30) Amy mentions services such as education and advice the Community Foundation offers to the “partner” non-profits to which they provide funds. She said the Foundation wants to do even more in supporting non-profits with education and managerial resources.

(22:10) Amy discusses the generosity of San Juan Island. She calls it a “magical place.”

(25:00) Jeff and Amy discuss the national loneliness epidemic. Amy says she worries about loneliness a lot, and she says it reinforces the theme for the priority on connectedness.

(30:00) While a $10 million fund is a lot of money, should it be bigger? What could be done with even more resources? Do a lot of people have the misconception that the Foundation is by and for rich people? How can we engage children in philanthropy, to instill a lifetime of giving values.

(32:25) The Community Foundation is not just about money. It also facilitates the giving of time and talents, too.

(34:45) Start thinking about legacy. Just start the conversation.

(35:00) Amy describes the job functions of her small staff.

(38:00) Amy celebrates the deep involvement and generosity of the islands’ many part-time/seasonal residents, who stay in close contact when they away. They are very involved and generous, even when they’re living at their other home. Even when they are away, they are a San Juan Islander.

This CNL2 video is approximately 41-1/2 minutes in duration.

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