Charitable Foundation of the Islands

Written by Brian Johnson

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Investor Warren Buffett found it easier to make money than give it away, and so for years, as Berkshire Hathaway rung up billions in profits, the Oracle of Omaha limited his charitable giving.

All that changed when he met Bill Gates and saw for himself what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was able to do for people around the world.

In something of the same spirit, the Charitable Foundation of the Islands (CFI) has become a place for a affluent donors on Sanibel and Captiva to give  money because they trust the management – led by Chairman Al Hanser – and like how the money is being deployed.

“CFI is really working out well,” said Hanser, who is also Founder and Chairman of the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company. “We’ve got a great board, and we have been able to make a significant difference in the lives
of individuals and families as well as island non-profits.”

CFI traces its roots to the Bailey Society, named after the pioneering Bailey family, which sought to relieve human needs on the islands. They merged with another charitable organization in Fort Myers but returned to Sanibel in 2011 as an independent 501c3. “The people on the islands have a big heart for charitable donations, and we have a comprehensive strategic plan to put the funds to their best use,” said CFI Vice-Chairman Chip Roach. 

In the past year CFI completed a study to find out the needs of 13 of the leading non-profits on Sanibel and Captiva, including F.I.S.H., BIG ARTS, Community Housing Resources, and the Children’s Education Center of the Islands. F.I.S.H. has provided the valuable service of assessing the merits of applications for aid by individuals experiencing hardships or emergencies.

“The mission of the Foundation is to promote philanthropy and build a spirit of community to enhance the quality of life for residents and employees of the islands, now and for generations to come, through the distribution of annually raised funds and the stewardship of permanently endowed funds,” said Hanser.

For the past 15 years the Sanctuary Golf Club has graciously hosted the Sanctuary Community Challenge, the signature event for CFI. The event has raised much of the $3 million in funds distributed to those in “need” on the islands. “Our thanks to the Sanctuary for their ongoing support,” said Roach.

In the event of an unexpected event, such as a hurricane, CFI is prepared to be a first financial responder, something that is especially important to Hanser and the board.

Hanser and Roach are joined on the CFI Board by Treasurer Tim O’Neill, Secretary Ralph Clark, and Directors Cindy Brown, Steve Brown, Melissa Congress, Steve Greenstein, Chris Heidrick, Mike Kelly, Jeannie Kendall, Tony Lapi, Paul Roth and Virginia Stringer, all prominent citizens of Sanibel and Captiva.

To make a donation or find out how to contribute to CFI, please contact Al Hanser at the Trust Company at (239) 472-8300. The Trust Company is located at 2460 Pine Ridge Road, Sanibel, FL 33957. 

Published in the 2015 issue of Island Scene, written by Brian Johnson