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Prominent Southwest Florida nonprofit CEO to leave position

Sarah Owen has held nonprofit CEO roles for nearly 20 years.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 8:30 a.m. April 3, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Sarah Owen has been CEO of Collaboratory since 2011.
Sarah Owen has been CEO of Collaboratory since 2011.
Courtesy photo
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One of the most prominent nonprofit executives in Southwest Florida, Sarah Owen, is stepping down from her positions as president and CEO of Collaboratory, the leading community foundation in Fort Myers.

Owen has been at the helm of the organization, formerly known as the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, since 2011, according to a statement. She will work with the Collaboratory board and a search committee on the transition to new leadership over the next few months, the release adds. Owen plans to focus on her family and a new professional opportunity after she leaves the organization. 

“We will forever be grateful for Sarah’s vision, expertise, professionalism and leadership in transforming Southwest Florida’s leading giving institution into a place where bold ideas are nurtured and supported,” Collaboratory Board Chair Aysegul Timur, vice president and vice provost, strategy and program innovation at FGCU, says in the statement. “She is leaving Collaboratory in excellent hands for its next chapter.”

Owen joined Collaboratory in 2011, after seven years as CEO of Community Cooperative. Under Owen’s leadership, Collaboratory’s assets have grown by $130 million, the release states. The organization, under Owen, also shifted “from transactional to transformational giving, a vibrant culture of collaboration was launched through FutureMakers Coalition and a new physical space in a renovated 1920s’s train depot was created,” the organization states. 

According to Collaboratory’s website, it manages 634 individual donor funds with assets of $181.3 million. It made $6.4 million in grants in 2022, bringing the total since it was founded, in 1976, to $110 million. 

“Nearly 12 years ago, I had an incredible conversation with a group of trustees from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation (now Collaboratory) and together we explored the possibilities and dreams of the foundation and the community,” Owen says in the statement. “Joining Collaboratory was one of the best decisions of my life. Over the past decade, I have worked with a visionary board, talented and dedicated team members, experienced success and failure and have learned from listening to the community. Everything we have accomplished we have done as a team — alongside a group of incredible problem solvers in Southwest Florida.”

“I am excited for the future of Collaboratory,” she adds in the release. “My belief in the bold goal of solving all the social problems in the region has not wavered and the board leadership team and our community is well positioned to make that goal a reality.”

Collaboratory officials say the organization is committed to coordinating the solving of all of Southwest Florida’s social problems "on an 18-year deadline, including homelessness, poverty, mental illness, racism, illiteracy and more," the organization states.

“We’re committed to coordinating all of this on a massive scale, in the way NASA coordinated the hundreds of thousands of businesses, universities, institutions and people to get us to the moon in nine years," the organization states. "We’re not oblivious to people saying this is ridiculous, insane and crazy but we’re driven by the inspiration of all those great figures in history who have come before us to achieve things no one ever thought remotely possible.”



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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