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, vice president 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 remembered correctly.
- Build pride with current employees.
- Enhance recruiting efforts.
- Refine your organization’s current 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 cat-box-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.
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