Among the many human services nonprofits in Southwest Florida, Better Together CEO Megan Rose has an elevator pitch at the ready to stand out in a crowd: “I tell people we are the Uber of connecting helpers to the hurting.”
Better Together does that primarily through two programs, Better Families and Better Jobs, that have a single mission: to keep families together and keep children out of foster care. Notably, the organization does that by shifting from a state-funded approach to one that’s 100% privately funded. (It had $762,960 in revenue in its most fiscal year, according to public tax filings.)
Rose founded Better Together in 2016, under the name FlourishNow. She came to it from lived experience: growing up her dad had got laid off, developed a substance addiction and landed in jail for a time. The family was torn apart. A local church helped her mom get through the crisis, and then later helped her dad get clean and a job. While all the help mattered, the employment side particularly resonated with Rose, who saw that without a job, families can go on a quick downward spiral. “If it wasn’t for people in the community who stepped up and supported us,” Rose says, “the outcome could have been very different.”
Rose went into social services as a career, working first as a child welfare case manager before becoming director for a foster care agency. She ran into a Byzantine maze, thinking, she says, “I was going to be saving kids,” but instead being stuck in red-tape purgatory. “I knew there had to be a better way,” she says.
Better Together is that better way. Since it was founded, the organization has helped 34,000 job seekers, leading to 60% of them finding employment within six weeks, according to its most recent annual report. In addition, it’s saved 2,619 children from foster care, and 98% have no further involvement with DCF. Better Together, which has raised $8.9 million since 2016 from 1,181 donors, also recently expanded up Florida’s west coast. It now serves children and families in both the Sarasota-Bradenton market and Tampa Bay region, a move Rose calls “a dream we’ve had for years.”
Like people who assisted her family growing up, Rose says her success at Better Together — she won a Manhattan Institute Civil Society Award in 2018, for one — stems from helpers in her life. One is her mentor, Doug Campbell, an oil and chemicals executive who retired to Naples and is on the Better Together board. Rose says Campbell has been an ally and sounding board as she navigated several challenges. “Doug has always helped me stay focused on what's worth my attention, time and energy,” Rose wrote in her 40-under-40 survey response. “He always asks me what are the three big mission-critical things I’m working on that only I can do at the organization.”
City of Residence: Cape Coral
Employer: Better Together
Years in the area: 35
Marital Status/Children: Married, three children and one on the way (6,4 2 and due with baby #4 in December)
Alma Mater/Degree: Liberty University (Undergraduate in Psychology and Masters in Human Services)
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Better Together
What's your top tip for being productive? All good performance starts with clear goals. If we were going to improve our performance or the performance of people on our team, the simplest and easiest way would be to make sure people have clear goals, measurable goals, and focused on performance.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Writing ands on various topics such as children issues, foster care and entrepreneurship.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Offshore Fishing
Have you gone to the movies in 2021? If yes, what did you see? We watched Raya in the comfort of our home with our kids
What's the top item on your bucket list? The Northern Lights
What's your favorite podcast? Masters of Scale
Where is your happy place? Boating with my family
Describe yourself in three words: Entrepreneur do-gooder
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Doug Campbell, who serves on the Better Together board of directors, has been my mentor for years.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? He has a wealth of experience working in child welfare as a volunteer guardian ad litem. Since retiring to Naples from a career in the oil and chemicals industry, he’s been an active philanthropist and volunteer. His experience as a guardian ad litem gave him insight into the glaring unfulfilled needs of children caught up in the system.
His philosophy has always been to enjoy life and have fun while pursuing wealth. He also values independence from government bureaucracy and works to see that tax dollars do as much good as possible. Doug believes Better Together is a valued venture because we work with volunteer families to help at-risk families who want to stay together, thrive, and avoid foster care.
Doug has been a mentor due to his passion, experience, and generosity of his time. I always knew I could call him for support and guidance as I led and expanded the mission of Better Together. Doug has always helped me stay focused on what's worth my attention, time, and energy. He always asks me what are the three big mission-critical things I’m working on that only I can do at the organization. This has helped me balance being a successful CEO of a growing organization, wife, and mom of three young children.
I am finding a balance, where I work hard to accomplish significant objectives and take time to rest and be present with my family. Focusing on three primary goals at a time and no more, keeping it simple, has helped me focus on what's most important for Better Together, which has helped us accomplish big goals and expand our programs across the state and nationally.