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Posted By Joe Hamilton


Duggan Cooley is a change maker. He serves as the latest of just four CEOs of the Pinellas Community Foundation in its nearly 50-year history. Cooley took the reins in 2016, and has worked for the last two years to bring new life to the Pinellas Community Foundation. He brought with him local nonprofit know-how from his time as President & CEO of United Way of Pasco County and Religious Community Services (RCS) in Pinellas. Cooley is always looking for ways to disrupt the status quo, say "yes" to the community and develop nonprofits to best serve the Tampa Bay community. As an up and coming leader in the Tampa Bay area, Cooley is specifically focused on issues of homelessness as part of the Homeless Leadership Board.

Years in St. Pete


Organizations involved in

Homeless Leadership Board, Pasco Economic Development Council

What gets you out of bed every day?

The opportunity to do something good. That excites me. I’ve always been driven by good work and attracted to people doing good work, but the opportunity to do good in some fashion every day gets me out of bed.

Why St. Pete?

St. Pete – that’s a good one. It’s the perfect mix of arts, culture, people, business, it’s growing – there’s something new happening all the time, it’s exciting. We had an event today with the foundation, and it’s exciting to know that there are six or seven other events that are also going on. It makes for a vibrant community.

What is one habit that you keep?

A habit that I’m trying to keep – it sounds almost a little bit silly – is to make my bed every day. It’s interesting, it sort of closes that period of sleep for me, and I really have been working on that. From the time I was a little kid, I was a kid with a messy bed and never make that, but then when I get home everything is neat and in its place. So I started to compartmentalize that part of my day and my life, and it helps me make sure that I’m ready to move on.

Who are some people that influence you?

I think the largest influences on my life are my parents. At a very young age, my parents were volunteering in the community and taking me along to do that. That has fueled my entire career and nonprofits. And so I can remember – and it still sticks with me – my mom taking me to a group that we had with our church, to a soup kitchen and seeing that there were children there. That memory still sticks in my head, and I think when I look back – because they did things like that, it has completely set the trajectory of my adult life.

What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?

I would say something that I have learned over the years and have tried to perfect overtime is my ability to listen, and my ability to listen authentically to people. From there, I’m a natural problem solver, but I’ve had to learn over time to close my mouth. And the more that I can listen, and still keep my mouth closed, the better I am at finding and figuring out solutions. And sometimes it’s a matter of closing my mouth so I don’t get in the way, but really authentically listening to people makes a difference in how I do my work.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?

I wish that I knew how difficult it is to say no to people who are asking for help. We’re in the foundation world – organizations that do great work that are asking for money, there’s limits to money and there’s limits to time. It is difficult for me to say no and I’m working on that. But I wish there was somebody who told me how difficult it is to do that. So I’m learning as I go.

What’s next?

For me and for the foundation – we’ve been around for almost 50 years, and in some respects we are 2 years old. We’re on a new trajectory and on a new path for the foundation, and so my time, my energy, my devotion is there and I’m excited to see what’s next, where we go, and how we’ll have an even greater impact on our community here.

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