“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” This quote by Maya Angelou is one of Bronwyn Beightol’s favorites. It gives her the courage to move forward even when all of the answers are not clear. Beightol, chief impact officer of United Way Suncoast, was born in Michigan but spent several years in Europe and many of our country’s southern states. Originally planning to be a journalist, she began her work life as an editorial assistant for a trade magazine publishing company in Miami where she stayed for several years. Rising to the level of production director, she decided to take some time to determine her next move when the company was sold. Although she did stay in publishing for a few years, she made a change when a chance opportunity came about to shift into the nonprofit field at The Education Fund. 

“It was great timing as I was at a point in life where I wanted to give back,” she says. Working for The Education Fund helped Beightol to understand how important community involvement in education is to our children’s success. Before then, she had assumed that our taxes covered the costs of public education. She soon learned that they do not. “Working for a nonprofit dedicated to advancing resources for teacher training, ensuring that schools and teachers had the supplies they need for students to maximize their learning opportunities (pencils, paper, tissues, books, etc) so they wouldn’t have to use their limited resources on these items for their classrooms, sharing best practices and so much more, I learned that every one of us has the opportunity and engage more fully with our schools for a stronger community.” 

In 2005, Beightol, now the mother of two children (a son and daughter) moved to Manatee County and worked for The New York Times/Herald-Tribune Media Group which led her to an opportunity at the then United Way of Manatee County.

“When I became a single mom, volunteering with United Way of Miami-Dade County was a catalyst for understanding how much United Way does and for exploring possibilities,” says Beightol, who volunteered there both on her own and with her children. “We walked and washed dogs at the animal shelter, served meals during holidays and I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity,” she says. She even recalls being on top of a roof nailing in shingles as one of her volunteer projects, a task she says she would never have considered doing on her own. 

Through a merger in 2017, Beightol became Area President for Manatee County at United Way Suncoast, which brought her to her current position as chief impact officer for the nonprofit’s five-county footprint (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, DeSoto).  In this role, she works with the United Way Suncoast team, community, volunteers, and partners to listen, learn and act upon community aspirations related to education, financial stability and youth success.

While she has several success stories under her belt, Beightol believes the 2017 merger is one of the biggest. “Overall, bringing together five counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto) to multiply our impact has elevated all that we can accomplish. For Manatee, I am so proud to have been a part of working with community leadership to bring the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to Manatee County (now the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in partnership with The Patterson Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Manatee Community Foundation, United Way of Charlotte County and United Way Suncoast). This work led to The Big Plan, Community United for Our Children’s Future, and a shared community focus on 10 schools in Manatee’s Central Corridor,” she says. “Our communities as a whole are much more informed and engaged in the success of all of our children. We continue to see progress in systems level changes that will continue for generations. This work is now being replicated in our five-county footprint thanks to strong team leadership.”

However, Beightol shares that because the organization is intentional about systems level change which involves policy and practice, it can take time. “We bring businesses, nonprofits, media, government and community members to every conversation and strategy. In a world where fast is rewarded, we take the time to ensure that equitable access to opportunities exists well into the future.”

United Way Suncoast’s Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Ernest Hooper is one of Beightol’s biggest supporters. “People may not be accustomed to authentic thrills and electric enthusiasm arising from a standard meeting of community leaders, and when that meeting involves United Way Suncoast’s Chief Impact Officer Bronwyn Beightol, they rarely see her produce such an emotional display,” he says. “Inside, however, Beightol almost bubbles over with joy when a plan comes together to address one of United Way Suncoast’s key pillars: early learning, youth success and financial stability. Whether it’s the organization’s United We Learn initiative elevating kindergarten readiness or its United We Thrive work helping thousands avoid eviction, the work fulfills a lifelong desire for Beightol.”

Beightol says she is grateful for the opportunity to lead and learn from so many exemplary and visionary thinkers and leaders, and is passionate about the work of United Way because the organization acts as a multiplier in communities. “We look at the bigger picture and bring resources to bear on some of our toughest challenges,” she says. “It means the world to me. It’s serious work, and I bring a serious attitude to this mission. But it fills my heart to see stakeholders, the coalition of the willing, come together to take on challenges with success. We’re making a difference, and that action will extend for generations.”

Now a grandmother of two beautiful girls, Beightol spends her free time taking long walks to catch the sunrise. She likes a good challenge and has found CrossFit to be a great place to get that. She is also a strong believer in the work of Habitat for Humanity. “I have experienced and am invested in the value of home ownership as a powerful tool for financial stability and equity,” she says. “This has come into much clearer focus as I now lead our Financial Stability impact as well. Our initiatives to provide Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) as well as Financial Coaching and focused work in neighborhoods are key to individual and community thrivability.”

Her advice to those just starting out: Stay focused on your goals but remain open to possibilities and take risks. Ask questions. Be curious.SRQ  Bronwyn Beightol was honored as one of SRQ Magazine’s good heroes in March 2023. To learn more, go to Unitedwaysuncoast.org. United We Rise, United We Win.