As the small group of seven grantmakers sat around the breakfast table in Miami in June 2000, they reflected on the messages they had heard during the previous day’s meetings: the State of Florida, under Gov. Jeb Bush, intended to shift funding in ways that would increasingly strain the nonprofits responsible for delivery of social services in the state.
The grantmakers also reflected on another fact they knew to be true: there was no statewide philanthropic entity with a voice to counter the voices in Tallahassee, or to speak on behalf of the funders and nonprofit organizations in the state.
That morning, the funders – including Sherry Magill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund — vowed to create the statewide entity that would give Florida philanthropy its voice.
Creating a new organization is a difficult task, and this was no different. But after many stumbles and struggles, the Florida Philanthropic Network was born in 2002, with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund as one of its founding members, and Sherry Magill as one of the board leaders.
“It was just so important that we have this type of organization in Florida,” Magill said. “While there are many strong foundations in Florida, there was none that funded statewide and had the breadth of focus to be a voice for philanthropy.”
FPN began with only its seven founding members, though it quickly added two others. Its early work focused on research – understanding and documenting the independent sector in Florida. It issued reports on Philanthropy in the Sunshine State, on the impact of federal resources coming to the state, on the economic impact of the nonprofit sector.
FPN also developed relationships with policymakers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. Staff was asked to serve on statewide task forces.
Today, FPN boasts 95 member organizations and in recent years has managed mergers with both Community Foundations of Florida and the Donors Forum of South Florida. Its annual conference attracts nationally recognized experts and figures in the fields of philanthropy. And it helps funders in specific fields such as health care or education, gain knowledge and connect with policymakers to influence state decisions on key matters.
“Florida is a regionalized state,” Magill said. “People think regionally more often than they think about the entire state. And yet the statewide view, the statewide voice, is critical. FPN is one of only a handful of statewide philanthropic organizations that is driving the important conversation about the role of government, business and nonprofits in improving the communities in which we live.”