Interview with TCF Trustee Julia Taylor

John & Julia Taylor

Julia Taylor joined The Community Foundation’s (TCF) Board of Trustees in 2018, and she serves on the Programs & Initiatives Committee. Julia brings an extraordinary breadth of community leadership to TCF, just some of which she mentions in an interview with Caroline Brinton ‘10 for this month’s Weaver Philanthropic Initiative (WPI) Alumni Network newsletter. In her “retirement,” Julia became President of the Women’s Giving Alliance (WGA) from 2013-2014. Of particular note, during her tenure as WGA President, Julia was champion for investing in diverse membership under the age of 40.

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Q: What do you do in your daily life?

A: Shortly after retiring in 2010, I became president of WGA and a grandmother (complete JOY!), both of which dramatically changed how I spent my time then and going forward. One thing that did not change is my love of the early (early!) morning, a time for quiet and exercise, both of which usually center me for the rest of the day. Although my time is now more flexible, community involvement continues to be a major part of what I value, including serving as a Trustee on the TCF Board; Leadership Council of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center; and Co-Chair of the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Coalition. Additionally, I continue to hold close to my heart affiliations from prior years: The Sulzbacher Center, Barnabas, and Guardian ad Litem, among others.

I enjoy both lifelong and new relationships. The value of these relationships cannot be overstated. Some are mentors/colleagues, and some are friends since kindergarten; regardless, I always learn from them.

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Q: What does community mean to you?

A: This seems like a simple question, but after thinking about it, I decided it is much more complex. I believe there are probably as many descriptions as there are people describing it. So, to me, community is family, not in the literal sense, but beyond. Community is about genuinely caring for humanity, regardless of one’s life circumstances. It is about understanding others (or at least trying), regardless of one’s viewpoints; it is about celebrating differences and promoting inclusivity; it is about both groups and individuals, and the blending of their differences to benefit the whole.

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Q: What is your first memory of philanthropy?

A: I grew up in a loving, nurturing middle-class family. My parents instilled in my brother and me a sensitivity and responsibility toward others, and especially those who struggled, often through no fault of their own. However, regardless of my parents’ involvement in our schools, church, and neighborhood, philanthropy was not a household word. I remember thinking that a philanthropist was way beyond anyone I knew; philanthropists were Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Carnegies— only those with vast wealth.

Although philanthropy was absent from my vocabulary, I learned a valuable lesson early with my first memory of being part of a neighborhood group we named Just Us Girls (JUG). We were pre-first graders running our first business, the ubiquitous lemonade stand, allowing us to make and give away money. We found great joy in the giving of time and even a little (very little!) money where we could. I learned small gifts add up and can result in making a difference. To this day, I believe there is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have contributed to bettering someone’s life. A friend/mentor of mine calls it “psychic income.”

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Q: Currently, what issues are you passionate about?

A: After leaving home (a cocoon), for college, I was exposed to many different people, many different causes (it was the 60s!) and many different environments. Through these experiences, I began to see what issues touched me the most: poverty, homelessness, incarceration, especially related to women and girls, and the broad category of women’s rights. The times accentuated this, remember, it was the 60s! Although in my volunteer career, I dabbled in other areas (the environment being one), the above issues became and continue to be my focus. I am grateful that John, my husband of 51 years, and our two sons are champions for women and equality and am hopeful that our granddaughters will benefit from our collective efforts.

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Q: Whom do you consider to be your role models for giving?

A: I hesitate to be specific because often there are people who do so much without being at the top of giving lists. I borrow from many different role models. However, universally, they have these characteristics: a charitable intent (obvious); a good fit with one’s personal giving focus; a curiosity about the project and its potential impact; an understanding of projected outcomes and sustainability. They do their homework, ask tough and challenging questions, and are not averse to risk, depending on the proposal and the person who will steward it. They take giving very seriously and inspire others to do the same.

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Q: What challenges concern you most about Northeast Florida?

A: My concerns most likely mirror many of yours: quality education, crime prevention, climate change.

Before there can be any progress with these and other key issues we face, I believe trust and civil discourse have to be at the core of how the problems are addressed. Respect for other’s opinions, including listening, can and will create an environment for problem-solving. Civil debate is healthy. Lack of it stymies progress or negates it completely. And, equally important, in my opinion, is the value of kindness and humor. They go a long way in tense situations!

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Q: As a Founding Member and Past President of The Women’s Giving Alliance (WGA), what excites you the most about WGA and how it has evolved?

A: WGA has evolved and matured in the most remarkable way. It has stayed true to its mission, “inspiring women to be strategic philanthropists and investing in the lives of women and girls in Northeast Florida.” Its strength is also tied to being nimble, e.g., recognizing the value of seeking a younger, more diverse membership who contribute to the energy, effectiveness, and future of the organization.

Flexibility plays a significant role in WGA’s success, especially for women who have that need at different times in their lives. For the first eight years of being a member, I simply paid my dues. I was working, volunteering, and had family responsibilities. I appreciated that my annual dues investment would be multiplied by the number of members. Each year when the grants were announced, I was proud that I had a part (albeit small) in making a “big” gift, as well as contributing to the endowment, which ensures WGA’s future.

The introduction to strategic philanthropy came to me through WGA and The Community Foundation and is the guide for our family giving.

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Q: What is a lesson you’ve learned about collective giving?

A: Collective giving provides a vehicle for a community of individuals who take strong and collective pride in making a difference together for a cause they most likely would not be able to support individually. For me, it opened a door to a broader range of women, more diverse in every aspect— racial, ethnic, age, philosophy, etc., and a new way to give that leveraged the resources of others. The organization and its members are much stronger as a result.

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Q: How is giving related to leadership?

A: Giving is often inspired by leadership. Leaders attract people to causes they care about and are persuasive at making a case for others to be involved. The passion exhibited by leaders creates a ripple effect that can profoundly change an organization. Think about the strongest organizations you know, and I bet they have dynamic leadership.

Leadership that is focused, forward-thinking, and authentic can be a catalyst for giving.

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Q: How do you use The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida as a resource for your philanthropy?

A: Long before becoming a Trustee of The Community Foundation, I recognized its value to the communities it serves. When I was president of WGA, TCF was a significant resource and support to me and the leadership team for the programs and initiatives we undertook. When my husband and I established a Donor Advised Fund, the staff expertly guided us in setting our objectives and continue to provide advice and counsel as needed. They did the same when I proudly became a Legacy member of WGA.

Now, as a trustee, I see the depth and breadth of the work beyond what affects my family and the facts and figures highlighted in publications. The excellent stewardship of the financial resources and the expansion to St. Johns and Putnam Counties, confirm that TCF, with its extraordinary staff, will continue to spread its successful philanthropic model beyond its original footprint. It is thrilling to be part of these efforts.