Leadership and investment can achieve a bold vision for the Tampa Bay region

By Marlene Spalten, president and chief executive officer, Community Foundation Tampa Bay

Picture this: A thriving Tampa Bay community where every person has equitable access to opportunity and prosperity.

That is the Community Foundation Tampa Bay’s bold vision for our region, one we share with others who care about this area’s long-term growth and development.  It is achievable if all facets of Tampa Bay work together with focus and dedication.

The Community Foundation Tampa Bay, our 1,300+ fundholders and our diverse collection of partners in business, government, education and philanthropy are committed to using our vast resources – our best thinking, our connections, our passion and, yes, our money – to build our vision.

In the past three years, we have granted more than $127 million to more than 1,500 organizations in the nonprofit community. We also hold more than $850 million that is invested for future giving.

Beyond monetary investment, we’ve built coalitions to tackle complex problems and leveraged our relationships to make things happen.

We are growing to meet the needs of the community and we are here for the long haul.

How do we unlock economic opportunity?

Education is the key. Access to diverse educational options opens the pathway to prosperity. That’s why we focus a large portion of our funding and our intellectual energy on education.

When a person has access to quality education and training, they have the building blocks for economic mobility. The Community Foundation and its fundholders make substantial philanthropic investments to enhance educational opportunities, from early childhood to college to workforce certifications and technical training.

Monetary resources are important, but it’s people who make things happen. The Community Foundation Tampa Bay brings together stakeholders who harness the power of collaboration to spark impactful change.

For example, the Community Foundation Tampa Bay plays a key role in Thrive by Five, a diverse network that promotes programs and policies to assure children are prepared to enter kindergarten. Investment in early cognitive, physical, social and emotional development has a lifelong impact. Kids who are “ready” for kindergarten thrive throughout their schooling and are set up for lifetime success.

Likewise, the Community Foundation supports access to and completion of education and training beyond high school. We are a founding partner in the LEAP Tampa Bay and Spark Pasco Hernando College Access Networks. The networks, which include leaders from business, government, education and philanthropy, connect residents to resources that help them enter and complete college or other training.

The need for support and assistance doesn’t stop when an adult enters the classroom.

Students often need financial assistance, beyond traditional financial aid. And they may need guidance and assurance. The Community Foundation Tampa Bay and its partners are there to fill those gaps.

Donors have stepped forward to invest. Over 400 students annually receive $1.4 million in scholarships from funds held at the Community Foundation Tampa Bay. They attend colleges, universities and training centers here and across the country. Ideally, they will employ their skills and talents in our region.

When we invest in education, both the individual and the community benefit. Each degree or certification adds to a person’s long-term earning potential and economic stability. And each well-trained, well-educated resident gives our region a skilled and diverse workforce to fuel our overall economy and growth.

The Community Foundation Tampa Bay can’t and doesn’t do our work alone.

We bring together hundreds of donors, thousands of nonprofits and many businesses and community leaders. And there’s always a need for more – more partners, more thought leaders, more philanthropists and more friends – as we work to realize our collective vision for what the Tampa Bay region can and should be.

How can you get involved?

  • Open a charitable fund. Make strategic charitable investments by becoming a fundholder at the Community Foundation Tampa Bay. Build the fund and distribute the gifts when the timing is right for you. And, if you want advice on making the most impactful investments in our community, our philanthropy staff is available to help.
  • Start a scholarship. Individuals, families, community groups, businesses and other foundations can establish scholarships administered by the Community Foundation Tampa Bay.
  • Explore opportunities for charitable giving for your business. Help our community and gain tax advantages with diverse charitable giving options. Our staff works with businesses and entrepreneurs to customize giving strategies – everything from a simple corporate giving fund to a complex gift of business interests before a sale.

Together, we can make the region a shining example of what all Florida communities can aspire to be.

Marlene Spalten

Marlene Spalten is President and CEO of the Community Foundation Tampa Bay.

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