July 2018


WalletHub has made it harder for Florida to attract new businesses and talent by telling Millennials they don’t want to live here. Florida ranked 42nd for best places to live for Millennials in a recent article. (https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-millennials/33371/#main-findings) While we ranked in the bottom half in all five categories, our worst showing was in “civic engagement” at 50th! To be fair, WalletHub is not the first to say such things and won’t be the last, until we change this. Let this be a Call to Engagement to all our citizens and business leaders to step up!

Just 18% of Florida Millennials volunteer, and only 2% attended a public meeting or got involved in fixing a community problem. This is important because these relatively uninvolved Millennials will soon be the largest workforce and voting cohort and are already responsible for 21% of all consumer discretionary spending in the U.S. Florida’s low rankings in civic engagement are not isolated to Millennials and are consistent with past reports. According to a 2013 study from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Florida ranked 48th with only 21% of adults volunteering. Orlando ranked 46th out of 51 large cities with 19% volunteering.

Why should we care that we don’t seem to care? Investing time and resources to build stronger communities yields real business and economic returns. Research indicates that communities with a higher level of “attachment” and engagement have a higher local GDP. People and businesses are drawn to communities that invest in themselves, demonstrating things like a track record of public-private partnerships, a vibrant downtown, and a deeply engaged community.

Supporting communities where you operate and do business is good business. According to the 2017 Cone Study, “Americans expect companies to invest in social issues and be a force for change.” And consumers are empowered with their dollars and their public voice to influence companies to invest in communities. 92% of consumers have a more positive image of a company, and 87% would switch brands if they knew a company gave back. Employees prefer to volunteer through their company, and 97% of employees feel more loyal to a company that gives back.

“The problem is that, as citizens, many of us are not all that involved,” Mark Brewer, President of Central Florida Foundation, said in response to a 2014 Central Florida survey. “Job No. 1 is engagement -- getting people to work on solutions together.”

There are theories about why we are so uninvolved – our transient population of retirees and transplants and our low wage economy; but the important thing is that we change it. Complex community issues like homelessness and education inequity can be solved when citizens from all sectors work collaboratively, investing their time and money and advocating for change. People of all ages and companies of all sizes that live and operate in our community must heed this Call to Engage, find something to stand up for, and work together to build a stronger community and a stronger economy.

Leslie Hartog

Co-founder and CEO, The Community Seal

The network for non-profits, businesses, and people committed to giving back

Co-chair, 100 Women Strong

A women’s giving circle and an initiative of Central Florida Foundation


July 17, 2017

Am I a Philanthropist?

By Leslie Hartog

This question occurred to me as I was reading an article about “Harriet Lake, 95, local philanthropist, and hat enthusiast”. She was being honored for her lifelong support of the arts and her recent $2 million donation to the Orlando Ballet. Actually, two questions occurred to me: “Why do they always tell us people’s age?” and “Am I a philanthropist?”.

When you think about the slightly intimidating word philanthropist, names like Harriet Lake, Harris Rosen, and Bill and Melinda Gates come to mind – wealthy people that write really big checks and do really big things – not regular people like me. Like Harriet, I wear many hats that fit me well – business woman, engineer, wife, mother, tennis enthusiast -- but I was not sure I could pull off philanthropist.

Merriam-Webster defines a philanthropist as a person who gives money and time to help make life better for other people. The definition does not say anything about the size of your wealth or the checks that you write or about how you volunteer. So, maybe I might be a philanthropist, and maybe you are one, too.

There are many ways to give back that suit varied interests, time availability, and wallet sizes. Everything counts, and no act is too small – as long as you are investing money or time to help make life better for others.

Donate Money -- give money, start a donor fund, payroll deduction, run or participate in a fundraiser.

Volunteer your time – at your child’s school, as a mentor, at a food bank, building a home, as professional services, or on a non-profit board.

Donate new or slightly used stuff – clothing, books, equipment, auction items, products or services.

Collective Impact Giving – programs that pool resources or give back % of sales programs, such as Amazon Smile, Tom’s shoes buy one/give one model, point of sale donations, or giving circles.

Collective impact giving broadens the definition of philanthropists, allowing relatively smaller donors to pool their resources and leverage their relationships for a big-check-sized impact. Technology and social media have led to more convenient and innovative ways to give back, tapping into consumer dollars with give back programs or combining donations from on-line and mobile fundraisers for a greater impact. Giving circles enable donors to pool their donations and have more choice and involvement in grant decisions, while becoming more effective and engaged philanthropists.

Philanthropy starts with understanding the needs of your community and finding a way to help that suits your interests and skills. The truth is, there is no one way to be a philanthropist: write a check, go to a gala, volunteer at a school, shop and give back, or join a collective giving circle. We are all philanthropists in our own way.

So, try on that philanthropist hat. Add the title to your Facebook and LinkedIn pages and when you introduce yourself to someone new. Nice to meet you -- I’m Leslie Hartog, business woman, mother, and philanthropist. (I left out my age. No one needs to know that.)

Leslie Hartog is the Co-founder and CEO of The Community Seal and Co-chair of 100 Women Strong (a giving circle initiative of Central Florida Foundation)

Gun safety is a community issue. Here in Central Florida we have more than our fair share of heinous crimes related to domestic violence, especially those that involve firearms. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to abusers who have access to guns. Come hear a presentation by Dr. Thomas Gabor, esteemed criminologist scholar and author, on this critical topic. We'll also host a panel of local experts to discuss the danger this threat poses to all of us and what steps the community can take to be proactive to keep our neighborhoods safe.

Moderator: Susan Scrupski, Big Mountain Data

Panelists: Dr. Tom Gabor, criminologist; Carol Wick, Domestic Violence expert; Jim Verity, former Orange County; Dr. Lee Ross, UCF Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, and Christy Jordan, a mental health counselor certified in trauma therapy. 

begins at 6:30pm.

Presentation and panel 7pm - 8:30pm.

Post-event book-signing for Dr. Gabor's, "Confronting Gun Violence in America." Bring your book for personal inscription and signing. Available now on Amazon and Books-a-Million.

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