Ashley Dietz took a big life adventure — and risk — in her young 20s with a trip to Australia. There was a lot of motivation for the journey: graduate school, being with her Down Under native and eventual husband, Paul, and, notably, honoring her dad David Heath, who had recently died from cancer. “Australia was one country he had never been to,” Dietz says.
The Aussie adventure lasted some seven years. She went to graduate school, earning a master’s degree in policy studies, public policy and international relations from the University of New South Wales in Sydney. She then worked for the city of Sydney, in grants and sponsorships, rising up the chain in the country’s largest city. “It was a really great experience,” she says.
It was also a bit cathartic, in the grieving process for her dad. “You grow up real fast when you lose a parent like that,” she says. “It helps you focus on the important things in life.”
When Dietz and her husband relocated to the States, they settled in Tampa. A St. Louis native, Dietz then got into nonprofits and philanthropy work. She was a grant writer and manager for the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, and then later held several leadership posts at United Way Suncoast.
In September 2020 she was appointed president CEO of the Florida Philanthropic Network, a statewide association of grantmakers that work, the organization says, to “strengthen philanthropy through research, education and public policy.” It has some 115 members that hold over $8 billion in assets, from private independent, corporate and family foundations to corporate giving programs. FPN members, Dietz says, provide some $600 million a year in grants.
Dietz is a wearer of many hats in her role with FPN, which has two full-time employees and works with a dozen consultants. She sets the vision and oversees day-to-day strategy, and also leads conversations with members, funders and philanthropic groups both in Florida and nationwide. (Funder membership is up 26% in her tenure.) She also leads FPN in engaging on charitable and philanthropic issues in Tallahassee, where, she says, “we do advocacy work. We’re not adversarial. We don’t pick a side.”
Dietz credits her mentor, Space Coast Health Foundation President and CEO Johnette Gindling with playing a big part in her career and success. While there’s a lot of nonprofits and foundations in Florida, there’s not a lot of groups built like FPN that have a hand in helping many other nonprofits, Dietz says. That makes Gindling’s experiences relevant and valuable. Gindling, Dietz adds, is also a kind, encouraging, wise and empathetic friend. “Johnette is a great sounding board,” Dietz says. “And she’s just a great person.”