Supporting, Connecting, Awarding – That’s SCA!
Swedish Council of America (SCA) was founded in 1972 by a group of leading American-Swedish organizations to be the national umbrella organization for the hundreds of Swedish-American lodges, clubs, associations, museums and other groups all across the United States. SCA’s initial purpose was to provide networking, institutional services and technical assistance to SCA Affiliate Member organizations as they promoted the preservation and understanding of Swedish heritage and culture in their local area and built stronger ties between North America and Sweden. Bringing these groups together for networking and sharing was the “council” in Swedish Council of America.
As time went on, the number of local Swedish-American groups diminished significantly and gradually the focus of Swedish-America changed to include more connections with contemporary Swedish culture, education and society. In response to these changes and to the changes in the needs of Swedish North America, SCA changed, too, to become the community foundation for Swedish North America.
2015 – A year of change
For Swedish Council of America, 2015 was a year filled with challenges and accomplishments, but above all else, it was a year filled with change. It is an understatement to say that as the leaders of the organization, we are truly excited about what is happening at Swedish Council of America and where we are heading. Let us tell you about it!
For its first four decades, the Council functioned primarily as a nation-wide umbrella organization for Swedish America. During that time, it accomplished many good things within the Swedish-American community, prime among these were the establishment of the Swedish Heritage Fund, a permanent endowment fund created in the 1990s to support projects that help preserve Swedish heritage and promote understanding of Swedish culture in North America; the founding of two significant scholarships – also in the 1990s – one bringing Swedish students to America and another sending American students to Sweden, and the launching of Sweden & America magazine, the journal of record for Swedish heritage in North America.
But times have changed and, like all organizations, SCA must change with them. Therefore, SCA has now embarked in a new, exciting direction; one we hope you will be proud to be an important part of.
Beginning three years ago, the SCA board and staff began a deeply critical assessment of what needs exist in Swedish North America, how those requisites and goals have changed with the change of eras, and how SCA can best serve the new and remarkably dynamic younger generations of North Americans interested in Swedish culture, language and creativity in the new global economy.
This is not to say all interest in the Swedish emigration experience has faded, but that there is also a new and remarkable blossoming interest in contemporary Sweden and in how one relatively small Nordic country has achieved such significant global influence in the realms of business, design, cuisine, architecture, medicine and pop music, to name just a few fields where Sweden excels.
After assessing the needs of our constituent organizations and listening to the goals of our supporters, SCA has taken on a new role, one where there is clearly a void in the community SCA was created to serve. Early last year, the groundwork was finalized for SCA to emerge as the community foundation for Swedish North America. With over $1,000,000 of assets in its endowment, and a nearly 40 year history of supporting organizations and youth with grants and scholarships; of connecting affiliates and individuals with magazines, books, newsletters and conferences; and of awarding leaders within the Swedish American community with the recognition they deserve, we have adopted a new tagline that we think embodies what precisely what we do:
SCA: Supporting, Connecting, Awarding
Four key programs
With these critical strengths as our guide, SCA has embarked on a strategy focused on four clearly defined programs for the community:
- Grants to organizations
- Scholarships to youth
- Awards to leaders
- Communications to the whole community.
Here is where we are heading in each of these areas:
In the 1990s, SCA leadership established the SCA Heritage Fund in support of SCA grants. Proceeds from this endowment fund, along with supplemental funding from SCA annual funds, have permitted SCA to make over $900,000 in grants to the Swedish-American community. We believe this makes SCA the largest community-supported source of funding for Swedish America in the United States.
Here, too, there is exciting news. After being idle in its endowment fundraising for a number of years, SCA is once again seeking and receiving gifts dedicated to growing the Heritage Fund. For those interested in ensuring a permanent source of support for projects promoting Swedish culture throughout North America, there is no better investment that the SCA Heritage Fund.
In addition, under the egis of the SCA Heritage Fund, SCA has established four nascent smaller endowment funds for donors who want to target their gifts or legacies to specific areas under the SCA mission of promoting knowledge and appreciation of Swedish heritage and culture in North American life and of strengthening contemporary cultural and educational ties between North America and Sweden. They are:
- The SCA Swedish Genealogy Fund
- The SCA Historic Building Preservation Fund
- The SCA International Exchange Fund
- The SCA Swedish Language Instruction Fund
Once they reach a critical threshold, each fund will allow SCA to make annual grants to projects within these specific areas. While perhaps far off, that will be a great day indeed for Swedish America!
For three decades, SCA offered just two annual scholarships. The first is the SCA Curtis L. Carlson Swedish-American Scholarship. Mr. Carlson fully endowed this scholarship in the 1990s and designated it as somewhat of a “reverse” scholarship in as much as it supports Swedish students who want to study in the United States. There currently are three young scholars from Uppsala Universitet studying at Gustavus Adolphus College on this SCA scholarship. We have met with them and they are wonderful and impressive young Swedes who are most appreciative of this generous opportunity.
The second, the SCA Glenn T. Seaborg Science Scholarship is named after a Nobel Laureate and former SCA Board Chair. It has sent dozens of American students to participate in the Stockholm International Science Seminar, which culminates with the participants attending the Nobel Ceremonies and Banquet. Pretty impressive, indeed! For most of the recipients of this SCA Scholarship, the only way they will ever be a part of this pageantry again is when they win their own Nobel Prize!
As part of its needs-assessment, SCA realized that many, many more young North American undergraduates are eager to study in Sweden and that those doors need to be opened. Therefore, SCA has recently added scholarships in Swedish Language and the Humanities to compliment the Seaborg Science Scholarship. The resounding demand for these scholarships has led us to dream big and SCA has turned to perhaps the most internationally famous of all Swedish institutions, the Nobel Prizes, for inspiration. After careful deliberation, in 2013 the SCA board authorized six major SCA Scholarships mirroring the six Nobel Prizes:
- Nobel Prizes SCA Scholarships
- Physiology or Medicine Medicine or Public Health
- Physics Science
- Chemistry Humanities
- Literature Swedish Language
- Peace Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies
- Economics Economics and Entrepreneurialism
Three SCA Scholarships are proceeding and we are thrilled to announce that the fourth, Medicine or Public Health, has recently received a pledge of $250,000 to set up a permanently endowment to guarantee its future! This is a huge step as SCA moves forward in endowing all of its scholarships!
Once again, this is an area where SCA has recently significantly expanded the breadth and quality of the program, far beyond what it ever had done before. SCA now has three awards that it bestows twice a year at its semi-annual meetings. The SCA Award of Merit goes to local leaders and heroes. Those individuals who have achievement on the national or international level are eligible for the SCA Great Achievement Award. And organizations reaching a milestone in their history may receive the SCA Proclamation.
Each honoree receives not only the honorary certificate that SCA has traditionally presented for many years, but also a new and impressive engraved crystal award to proudly display. These changes have greatly enhanced the value of the awards to the recipients and have vastly improved SCA’s visibility in local communities. Already SCA has begun receiving award nominations for 2016. Such long-range interest in SCA Awards reflects the changes in the program!
In 2015 SCA presented:
• Nine SCA Awards of Merit to local leaders in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota.
• Two SCA Great Achievement Awards for a lifetime of promoting Swedishness to Linda Wallenberg of Sjölunden Swedish Language Camp and Professor Roland Thorstensson of Gustavus Adolphus College.
• Four SCA Proclamations marking organizational milestones to the American Association for Runic Studies of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Swedish Historical Society of Rockford, the Augustana Heritage Association of Rock Island, and the Andover Congregation & Jenny Lind Chapel of Andover, all in Illinois.
No other area reaches as many people on a regular basis as SCA Communications.
In conjunction with our partner in Karlstad, Sverige Amerika Centret, SCA continues to publish Sweden & America magazine. We do this primarily as a service to our Affiliate Member organizations so they can provide a high-quality magazine to their local members as a benefit. We can tell from the feedback SCA receives from subscribers that many recipients highly prize receiving the magazine every quarter. In addition, SCA also provides complimentary subscriptions to many collegiate libraries where Swedish is taught, to SCA donors and affiliates, and to all the Swedish consulates in the United States and Canada.
The SCA website is our gateway to many of our constituents, both supporters and support-recipients alike. Not only is the website the place to learn all about the activities and programs of SCA, it is where grant-seekers find our grant applications, where SCA Affiliates find award nomination forms, where meeting attendees register for SCA meetings and where a growing number of supporters make their contributions. After putting it off as long as we could, the site was rebuilt from the bottom up in 2015. We are thrilled with the new look and user-friendliness. The upgrade is truly a great enhancement and we believe it will serve SCA and our constituents well for years to come.
But it is in the area of digital communications where SCA is having the most impact. The subscriber list to our electronic newsletter, SCA e-UPDATE continues to grow and grow, and it is not uncommon for over 20,000 people to interact with our Facebook page in just one week!
2016 – A year of growth
For 2016, we look forward to furthering SCA’s mission of promoting knowledge and appreciation of Swedish heritage and culture in North American life and of strengthening contemporary cultural and educational ties between North America and Sweden. We firmly believe that our structure as a council within Swedish America gives us the insight to the changing needs of the community we serve and allows SCA to deftly respond to these needs. With enhanced community support in 2016, SCA will continue to expand our programming where needed and will have the flexibility to respond to the community’s demands on us as they arise.
Please let us know if you have any specific questions about SCA or about the projects and programs we support. We are always eager to talk about our story and how SCA supports, connects and awards Swedish North America!
Med vänliga ock tacksamma hälsningar,
John Hasselberg, Board Chair
Gregg White, Executive Director