The theme of Florida Philanthropic Network’s 2013 Statewide Summit on Philanthropy was “What Is Philanthropy’s Leadership Opportunity?” So it was a particularly appropriate occasion for FPN to honor two people who have taken full advantage of their leadership opportunities in Florida’s philanthropic sector: Sherry Magill, President of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund in Jacksonville, and David Odahowski, President & CEO of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park. Sherry and David are two of the co-founders of Florida Philanthropic Network. They have served on FPN’s Board of Directors since FPN’s first Board meeting in 2001, and they left the Board on January 30, 2013, after more than 12 years of service. Joining me in honoring them at the Summit was Steve Marcus, President & CEO of the Health Foundation of South Florida, who co-founded FPN along with David and Sherry.
Both David and Sherry have mentioned to me that many years ago they would stand alone in the corner during grantmaker conferences and wonder why Florida couldn’t have an organization that could hold its own conferences for Florida funders; they didn’t want to just see their Florida colleagues at national conferences every now and then. Well, thanks to their hard work, vision and perseverance, Florida now has such an organization. Their vision for FPN was to provide a collective voice for Florida philanthropy and to ensure that philanthropy has a seat at the table when important policy decisions are being made.
In an interview published in a Jessie Ball duPont Fund newsletter back in 2003, David and Sherry described why they got involved in helping to create FPN.
David said, “We knew that the timing and the issues facing Florida were growing each day, and the Network offered us a way to promote a common statewide agenda, with philanthropy as an ally and participant, not just an observer.”
Sherry added, “We think the policy discussions could be enhanced with better information and better, more thoughtful, debate based upon research and not upon perceptions or ideology. We think organized philanthropy has a leadership role to play in organizing this research and debate.”
Sherry and David have put their hearts and souls into taking FPN from a dream in their heads to the established organization that it is today. Since FPN was incorporated in 2003, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has contributed more than $400,000 in general operating support for FPN, and the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation has contributed more than $300,000. Both foundations also gave additional funding for special projects and needs over the years to support FPN’s research, public policy and other critical leadership work. The Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation provided in-kind office space to FPN in Winter Park for many years as well. FPN’s conference room at our current Tampa office is named the Edyth Bush Room to honor the foundation’s ongoing support of FPN.
David’s and Sherry’s support of FPN goes far beyond financial contributions. They have contributed countless hours to the organization over the past 12 years. In addition to their Board service, including serving as Board Chair, Sherry and David chaired or sat on numerous FPN committees and task forces. Most recently, Sherry chaired FPN’s Public Policy Committee and David chaired FPN’s Membership Committee. They have served as presenters and speakers for numerous FPN programs over the years—including Sherry’s recent presentation at the opening session of FPN’s 2013 Summit that brought people to their feet.
Florida Philanthropic Network would not be the organization it is today without Sherry Magill and David Odahowski. I have truly valued the opportunity to get to know them over the past four years. I have learned a great deal from them about philanthropy. But even more importantly, I have learned from them what it means to be the best kind of board member. Both Sherry and David have been board members who were 110% committed to FPN’s mission; were active cheerleaders for FPN; offered helpful guidance and constructive criticism when warranted; and were completely behind the FPN staff. I am honored to have them as colleagues.
David Odahowski and Sherry Magill exemplify what strong leadership in philanthropy is all about. The next time you see them, please thank them for all that they have done for Florida’s philanthropic sector.
– David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network