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Posted By Joe Hamilton


Marlene Spalten is a change maker. As President & CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Spalten's reach extends into five counties and countless organizations, acting as matchmaker for philanthropists and the nonprofits making big impact in the Tampa Bay Community. Since its inception, the Community Foundation has awarded more than $210 million in grant funds and manages assets of more than $253 million for future giving. As head of a complex organization that is part bank, part driver of idealism and impact, Spalten steers the ship with grace.

Years in St. Pete

In Tampa Bay for 7 years.

Organizations involved in

Officially we try to remain neutral from nonprofits, so we don't take board positions. But I do serve as advisory with the Junior League and also Junior Achievement. Those are two organizations that have these advisory councils that meet a few times a year and it's strictly that, no other obligations.

What gets you out of bed every day?

Opportunities, they are everywhere, especially in the Tampa Bay area, where there's so much positive change happening and the future is so very bright. When I go to bed at night, I think of all of the things I wish I could have gotten to that day, so that's a little more regretful. But to me it's the best time of the day, everything's fresh and you can think big.

Why St. Pete?

I came to Tampa Bay for the position that I hold. And when I came to be interviewed and to look at the area, I could sense a vibrancy here that I have not experienced in other places in Florida. Great hope for the future, people working together, nice people. I'm from the Midwest and tried to figure out why I felt so immediately at home here - until I started asking people where they were from and everyone said Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Midwestern states. That was part of what made me feel very comfortable here.

What is one habit that you keep?

I don't have a lot of habits. Forming habits is something I have to work at doing, because I do like change and differences from routine. But my spiritual life is a habit I have that I would never give up.

who are some people that influence you?

I am so fortunate. I am surrounded by great people. There are many people who serve in elected office, Mayors Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman, who inspire me with their optimism for their communities and their ability to lead. Nonprofit leaders every day, people that are incredible leaders of nonprofit causes and missions. Philanthropists are incredibly inspiring - people that could be sitting on the couch and are instead really involved, not just financially, with missions they care about.

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

"Mindset," it's a book I've read twice now. I read it anytime I need a refresher. It's based on the idea that people either have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. What I had never realized was the impact that has on the choices you make throughout your life. I'm really interested in how we nurture a growth mindset in children so that they look at the world as to what is possible.

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

A lot of the technicalities. The Community Foundation is part bank and financial organization as well as servicing philanthropists with very complicated ideas for how they can engage community with their philanthropy. So there's a lot of technical knowledge that one has to learn in order to do this work, but you can't let the technical stuff get in the way of doing your work, so we try to make it really look easy on the outside. Behind the scenes, it's much more complicated than that.

What’s next?

I'd be happy to stay at the Community Foundation until I retire. I've often thought about consulting, and one of the things that has discouraged me from that is the travel, which isn't as pleasant as it was in the old days. But you can't travel from a better airport than Tampa International Airport; I brag about it everywhere I go. So that would maybe make that possible to do a little bit of that, because I wouldn't dread going to the airport.

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