Investor Spotlight: Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

March 22, 2019

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay connects people and resources to inspire charitable giving and create a meaningful, lasting impact on the region.


The Foundation brings together donors looking for causes to support, community leaders working to solve complex issues, business leaders wanting to strengthen their corporate giving, or someone wanting to volunteer their time or talents.


Marlene Spalten, President and CEO


Marlene Spalten joined the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay as President and CEO in 2012. With an objective of significantly increasing philanthropy in the region, she was listed on Tampa Bay Business Journal’s “25 People to Watch in 2013.” Since its inception in 1990, CFTB has distributed more than $210 million in grants while building assets to more than $250 million through community leadership, philanthropic services, and creative grantmaking. Marlene serves on the boards of the Florida Philanthropic Network, the Florida College Access Network, and Community Foundations of Florida. She is a peer reviewer for the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations Accreditation Program.


How does the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay work with local organizations?


The Community Foundation works to build a better community through creative and innovative philanthropy, vision and leadership. We work with business and community leaders to provide resources for local nonprofit organizations, through awarding grants or enabling collaboration or providing endowment support. We see philanthropy as an investment in our community.


We connect “investors” and other leaders in order to tackle our region’s most pressing issues. We’ve been in the Tampa Bay area for almost 30 years. We’re continuously evaluating ways to make our community stronger, through projects like the LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network, and identifying the people who are best equipped to address the issues.


The Community Foundation recently announced a successful fundraising match for the Fuse Scholarship Fund that essentially doubled the total contributions to $3 million. Tell us about Fuse, the scholarship fund and how you were able to double the contributions in less than a year!


The Fuse program is one pillar of the LEAP Network. Fuse especially helps first-generation, minority, and underrepresented students in educational attainment. Students in the Fuse program attend schools like Hillsborough Community College and St. Petersburg College and are guaranteed admission into their majors at the University of South Florida after completing their associate degrees. The program provides students with a graduation pathway, which gives them a step-by-step path with classes to take to graduate in a specific time frame.


The Fuse scholarship provides low-income Fuse students with up to $5,500 as they work toward a degree. The scholarships help students overcome financial hurdles, which accelerates the timeframe for earning a degree, reduces costs for students and gets them in the workforce more quickly.


The Community Foundation, Helios Education Foundation and USAmeriBank Foundation started the Fuse scholarship fund in 2017. The USAmeriBank Foundation made the founding donation of $500,000, which Helios Education Foundation matched with $1 million. At that time, Helios pledged another $1 million in 2-to-1 matching funds for dollars raised by other organizations.


In less than a year, the Community Foundation and its partners successfully raised another $500,000 for Fuse, which triggered the additional $1 million from Helios for the scholarship fund. Donors saw it as a great opportunity to help the community and secure the matching funds from Helios.


Today, a total of $3 million has been raised for the Fuse scholarship fund. We’re very grateful to have such engaged donors, and have other foundations show a strong commitment to these students and workforce development.


Availability of top talent is a top priority for companies we’re working with to recruit to the area, or local companies that are expanding. Tell us about LEAP Tampa Bay and how LEAP fits into Tampa Bay’s talent attraction and retention efforts?


The Community Foundation is the backbone organization for LEAP Tampa Bay, which is a regional network of leaders focused on increasing college access and attainment. Its four strategic pillars are:

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) completion, which helps high school seniors access financial aid for higher education;
  • Asset identification, which means that community resources available to students pursuing a postsecondary degree are identified, as well as identifying specific needs in the Tampa Bay business community;
  • Strategic communications, which means that LEAP’s mission is shared with everyone who might benefit from its activities; and
  • Fuse, which helps first-generation, minority and under-represented students with college attainment.


LEAP is making strides in increasing the number of working-age adults in Tampa Bay with a degree or high-quality certificate to 60 percent by 2025 so we can meet the demands of our growing economy.


The most recent Regional Competitiveness Report, produced by the Tampa Bay Partnership Foundation with support from the Community Foundation and United Way, confirms that our area lags behind other comparable cities when it comes to having an adequately developed talent pool.


Progress has been made since LEAP began in 2016, but there is still considerable work to do. The current percentage of adults with educational credentials is about 48 percent.


We’re working hard to increase those numbers through LEAP, Fuse and other community partnerships that move our area forward, and we’re bullish on the future of Tampa Bay and our workforce.


Why is it important to have partners from the private, public and academic sectors involved?


Our partners in the private, public and academic sectors connect people and resources to create lasting change in the Tampa Bay region. These connections help us bring awareness to and problem-solve for our communities’ greatest needs – from a more qualified workforce to combatting homelessness. We believe philanthropy is simply good business, and all business leaders can make a tremendous impact on our communities by supporting the important work of nonprofits.