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Growth by giving

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  • | 11:00 a.m. October 23, 2015
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Susie Bowie has become an expert on giving.

But her job as vice president of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County involves more than just raising money for nonprofits. It's also about increasing transparency for donors to find a good place for their donations.

For the last four years, the 39-year-old Bowie has led the foundation's Giving Day Challenge, a 24-hour spree to encourage individuals to become philanthropists for 400 nonprofits in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Desoto counties. Since 2012, the annual event has raised more than $15 million.

The event was held in September this year and raised nearly $6.9 million. The 2015 Giving Challenge was especially successful because the Patterson Foundation, a leading area nonprofit, incentivized new donors by matching up to $250 per each new donor.

The group also encouraged organizations to build out profiles on the foundation's technology tool, the Giving Partner. “We built incentives for organizations to do different things,” Bowie says, including tiered grants for the organizations with the highest amount of donors, best overall campaign, best video, best board member engagement and more.

Bowie says her best business decision has been to stay open to others' recommendations. For example, when her boss, Roxie Jerde, became the CEO of the foundation in 2011 and brought the Giving Partner technology to Sarasota, she asked Bowie to spearhead its implementation. Despite feeling a bit intimidated, Bowie jumped right in. The tool “leveled the playing field” so small organizations had profiles with the same “questions and data points that large organizations share,” Bowie says.

It's just one example of when she's pushed herself out of her comfort zone. “I've been at the Community Foundation for 10 years now,” she says, “and it's been a really special place for me to grow and learn.”

In December, Bowie was promoted to vice president of philanthropic education and marketing, overseeing the foundation's nonprofit consulting and training, in addition to communications and marketing.

“Communications is the glue that holds this all together,” she says. “A common ingredient of success in philanthropy and if you can tell good stories and get your messaging consistent.”

Blast from the past
A glimpse back at Bowie's answers from when was a 40 under 40 recipient in 2009.

Businessperson you admire most: My father. He achieved business success in all the right ways, with persistent dedication, care for the wellbeing and achievement of his team members and integrity as the guide for all decisions. His calm demeanor always provides greater voice to both traditional and out-of-the-box approaches.
If I had a magic wand I'd: Create the space for everyone to see themselves as part of the larger community. For some, it would mean finding that passion (whether it's the arts, environment, children, literacy, animal welfare or whatever) and making the time to contribute to the cause. For others, it means not having to invest so much energy in the next meal, health care expenses or worries about basic necessities so they can live up to their fullest potential as human beings.


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