We don’t know what we don’t know. Perhaps what’s worse, sometimes we think we know when, in fact, we’re actually making an assumption based on a related fact.

If I’ve totally confused you, I apologize. What I’m trying to say is that we generally don’t know all the facts until we do our research.

And that’s what the Community Foundation plans to do. In the next several months, we’ll embark on a community indicator study that will provide valuable, in-depth information about our region.

This data could have far-reaching implications on our grantmaking process and how we financially support local nonprofits. It will also provide donors and other funders timely and relevant information to help them make more informed and personally meaningful giving decisions.

Community indicator studies arose from the realization that simply using economic indicators – what had been used in the past – to gauge the health of a community didn’t provide a comprehensive snapshot of a community’s overall well-being. Many organizations – generally nonprofits, but also municipalities and other governmental entities – conduct and use these studies to measure the interplay between social, environmental and economic factors, determining the community’s greatest areas of need. This then charts a course for effective and focused policymaking and grantmaking.

Community foundations, whose missions are to strengthen their communities by addressing ever-changing local needs, have a broad working knowledge of the challenges their communities face. They work closely with organizations that address these needs. Community foundations are, therefore, naturally positioned to conduct a survey like this.

Granted, some helpful sources of public information already exist, such as the census or other government-curated reports. However, that information is rarely timely and might not measure topics or challenges specific to the Lowcountry. Conducting our own study allows us to drill down on a more granular level, allowing us to focus on our specific local concerns, get input from people living in our community and pinpoint information specific to our distinct geographic region.

How will our findings be used? This source of unbiased information for donors, local governments, businesses, service providers and other nonprofits will mobilize community knowledge, identify community priorities and drive the formulation of plans to address the most pressing issues. That will result in more effective grantmaking for us, as well as for our donors and fund advisors. Ultimately, grantmaking driven by our research findings will have a more positive and powerful impact in our community.

Stay tuned. We’ll keep you informed of our progress and our findings. 

Scott Wierman is the president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.