Norma Schuiteman is retiring after 15 years as the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound.
“I had parents who taught me about giving, about tithing, about those who have resources should share them,” says Norma. “That is how I’ve lived my life, and I’ve been able to work in organizations that share that philosophy.”
Through her work at the foundation, Norma has helped donors plan local charitable giving through individual scholarships and grants to a wide array of nonprofits and community organizations.
There will be a retirement celebration for Norma on September 30 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
“There are people interested in making lives better,” shares Norma, “and that is a great motive for working. This area is really blessed with many, many organizations that make our lives better. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many donors, individuals, families and businesses that want to make a community better through their charitable giving.” Her role has been to connect the organizations with the donors.
“She really has a magical way with understanding what people’s passions are,” says Mary Williams, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “Even if they can’t put their finger on it, Norma can help talk through what donors are interested in, and fine tune what they want their legacy to be.”
“Norma has been CEO for half of the foundation’s lifetime. When she started, our assets were about 2 million dollars, and now they are about 25 million,” adds Mary. “Lots of growth in her era.”
The Community Foundation of South Sound serves Lewis, Mason and Thurston counties. Under Norma’s leadership, the foundation received the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations accreditation, which is a rigorous review of operations, policies and procedures that serves to assure donors that their funds are invested and doled out wisely.
When community members, businesses and other charitable organizations give money to the foundation, they can decide exactly how those funds are distributed through scholarships and grants, or they can let the foundation determine how the money would best serve the community. “Many funders say to the foundation, we trust you. You know the community better than we do, so go ahead and make grants where you see fit,” says Mary.
“One thing that makes us unique in a philanthropic sense is that we fund a wide variety of programs that serve our communities: the arts, culture, environment, certainly human services, health, youth, education, even animals,” Mary adds. “We really have a broad scope in our mission and really are proud of that diversity.”
“Norma is a very gentle soul,” Mary affirms. “It’s all about relationships when you have donors that trust an organization with their investments. She is obviously very good at getting to know people and gaining their trust that we are good stewards of funds, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Knowing not all the problems in the world are going to be solved has not deterred Norma in her work. “There is always a sense that there is not enough,” she shares. She has found it helpful to think through the many resources in our country and to know there is wealth out there. “How do we have that place where resources are shared, so everyone does better? We have to be able to tell stories and learn from each other about what people are interested in with their charitable giving, and how we can continually work with each other in ways that advance the missions of the various organizations.”
“I really just have such gratitude for all of the individuals that work in our nonprofit sector,” notes Norma. “Those that are delivering services, those that are in the office, those that are on the boards and taking time in their volunteer roles. There are just thousands of people that are making this work possible, and I’m really grateful for that.”
Before coming to Olympia in 2004 to work for the foundation, Norma spent 20 years working in healthcare, first as a nurse, then as Vice President of Operations at a hospital in Michigan. During that time, she was approached to volunteer on the board of their local community foundation. That volunteer experience opened doors for Norma and led her to pursue a career in the community foundation field. “I think of volunteering as it’s good for one’s soul. It’s good for the organization, it’s good for the community,” shares Norma, “and it may lead you down paths where you least expected to go but that will enrich you.”
Though she’ll no longer be working, Norma will not be idle. She’ll spend time reading, and enjoying family and friends. “I’m sure I’d love to volunteer some place, but I’m not sure what that would be,” she muses. “I want to see what is available in the way of community lifelong learning courses. That is a part of who I am, just constantly wanting to be in a learning situation.” She looks forward to the numerous opportunities in our community that are open for discovery.