Grace Place: Building Trust Through Future Ready Collier

Tim Ferguson is respected throughout Collier County for his bold leadership of Grace Place, successfully steering the organization through a substantial capital campaign and major campus expansion, and shepherding its mission to raise up communities through collective engagement, literacy, and educational opportunity. With characteristic confidence, Tim, an early supporter of Future Ready Collier, offers as an observation that we are “on the threshold of collective impact becoming the way we do business in Collier County.” Grace Place, under Tim’s thoughtful watch, has been an instrumental player in Future Ready Collier since its inception. Counting more than 60 partner organizations, Future Ready Collier is enabling individual organizations to combine efforts, resources, and ideas to generate real results for Collier County’s educational system.

Dr. Ferguson was recruited in 2015 to assume direction of Grace Place from its founding CEO, and previously spent more than 30 years in the school system in various capacities, including as a Golden Apple-winning teacher, and having been recognized by the District School Board of Collier County as the Innovative Principal of the Year for his efforts towards better integrating technology into the classroom. It is his keen perspective as an educator and school administrator that has enabled Grace Place, already an established community-based nonprofit organization, to further flourish. Moreover, Tim’s enthusiasm and passion are evident. You only need see him greet a classroom of pre-school-age kids, or local moms in a literacy group, to know his commitment to the job—and the people—is genuine.

Tim is quick to note how participation in Future Ready Collier has been beneficial to Grace Place. As an illustration, the organization is currently collaborating with the Guadalupe Center in Immokalee to support their roll-out of a literacy program based on Grace Place’s successful model. Absent a central convener like Future Ready Collier, it is much more challenging for local nonprofits to identify potential partners, and to do so in a context of trust. Tim notes that engagement with Future Ready Collier has enabled organizational leadership to understand that, “We have to be trusting and open to understand we can share donors and resources, and can work collectively. We are not in competition. We are in collaboration.”

Building this culture of trust has been a steady process. Having lived and worked in Southwest Florida for many decades, all within the education sector, Dr. Ferguson observes that there was not always such a willingness to even consider collegiality among nonprofit peers. Challenges persist; for instance, a dearth of government funding to support relevant initiatives means that each organization is privately raising its dollars. However, donors are stepping up, and sector leaders are realizing the value that ultimately accrues from such a cooperative mindset.

Tim is hopeful that Future Ready Collier will continue to evolve, with trust and partnership at its core. A subsequent goal of the group will be to better engage the business community, so that resources can be more reliably disseminated to the workforce. And to have gotten this far, to be sure, has taken a monumental effort by all those involved. But the outcomes are already impressive. And working towards the greater good, as Tim describes the mission of Future Ready Collier, imagine how the overall quality of our community will benefit.

Written by: Caroline Ridgway, C1b1 Communications