Nonprofits Look For Opportunity Amid Vetoes



Florida’s philanthropic world was dealt a blow this year first by a rancorous legislative session and then by vetoes on more than $461 million in line items from the state budget. But leaders say it's time to step in and fill the void left when government won’t provide expected funds.

Bob Rosinsky, president and CEO of Goodwill Manasota, said philanthropic leaders have to find new ways to meet needs that won’t go away even when funding does. “We don’t have the resources we want and the needs are great, so how do we maximize the resources we’ve got? We have to look at ways to work together to optimize the money currently spent,” he said. Rosinsky also said citizens need to hold government leaders responsible. “When I talk to people in business, social services or government, I would suggest one of the the things we could do is we could vote a little more intelligently. Look beyond 30-second commercials and start really assessing what the people we are electing will do.”

The matter was a hot point of discussion at the most recent installment of SRQ Media Group’s SB2 series. A panel on “Helping People” was held Thursday morning at The Francis.

Sonia Santiago, vice president of youth and family services for the YMCA, said Southwest Florida in particular can sometimes feel punished for its successes. “We are the No.1 foster care system in the state and we were slated to get more than $1 million, and that was reduced and we only received $200,000,” she said. “That’s a perfect example of being successful and it ending up hurting you.”

Jaime DiDomenico, president of CoolToday, said when he heard about the vetoes, he felt the responsible reaction for businesses engaged in corporate giving was to step in and fill the void. If state leaders decide to cut contributions to charitable efforts and give tax cuts to businesses, those businesses should look at ways to contribute more. “We shouldn’t say these are extra dollars in our pocket,” he said.

Erin McLeod, senior vice president of The Friendship Centers, was hopeful that would be the result. Discussion of philanthropy purely in terms on funding, she said, could be disheartening in and of itself, and companies can all look at ways to give time and resources. Some businesses incentivize philanthropy on the part of employees, and she’d like to see a boost in that practice. “More that part of the corporate responsibility strategy for each company,” she said.

Tom Waters, president and CEO of Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, said the private sector should look at the recent moves by government as a chance to step up. “These impacts are great and there needs to be a partnership between government and us,” Waters said. “But this is a great opportunity for us to come alongside and make a difference.”

Photo: Bob Rosinsky, Sonia Santiago and Tom Waters were part of the SB2: Helping People panel held Thursday. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan

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