Leveraging the Past
Regardless of size or structure, an organization’s past plays a critical role in its future.
“There’s great value in knowing where you came from,” says Dan Wyant, a trustee of the Edward Lowe Foundation in Cassopolis, Mich. “Understanding your organization’s history, traditions and values helps you build upon previous successes — and avoid repeating mistakes.”
In addition, an appreciation of heritage can:
- Ensure the founder’s intent is ever present.
- Build pride with current employees.
- Enhance recruiting efforts.
- Refine your organization’s identity and strengthen branding efforts.
- Enrich decision-making.
The Edward Lowe Foundation’s heritage revolves around entrepreneurship and land stewardship. Ed Lowe, who forged a new industry with catbox filler products, believed that entrepreneurship was vital to a robust U.S. economy. He and his wife, Darlene, launched the Edward Lowe Foundation in 1985 to provide resources for entrepreneurs — and raise awareness of entrepreneurs’ contributions to society.
“Ed also had a great love and respect for the land and developed a unique place that he wanted to share with others,” Wyant says, referring to Big Rock Valley, the foundation’s 2,600-acre property in Southwest Michigan. The foundation uses Big Rock Valley to host leader retreats and other entrepreneur programs. It also conducts land-management practices to promote biodiversity and makes the property available to researchers.
The foundation preserves its heritage through a variety of tools and resources, including websites, multimedia productions, exhibits and publications — and, perhaps most important, its archival collection.