- January 30, 2023
If David Fink can find a moment to sit down during his two-year term as president of the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund board, he hopes to find a solid base on a three-legged stool.
Fink, who succeeded Garrett Shinn earlier this month as president, said the Community Fund has survived primarily on a one-legged stool of fundraising. He said larger companies and corporations have primarily supported the nonprofit's efforts.
While he knows the importance of such support, he would like to develop more donations from individuals and smaller businesses.
"We have a whole new opportunity," said Fink, who in 2015 was chair of the board for the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance. "We're going to have Waterside, all those villages off State Road 64, we've got Esplanade."
He said the Community Fund will begin a grassroots effort to meet with influential members of the various East County communities, perhaps in groups of four or five people at a time.
"In this environment, companies are sucking wind," said Fink, who has served on the Community Fund board for four years. "We're going to have 20,000 new residents over the next couple of years. We need to create a message that resonates with residents. It's Branding 101."
He said that effort is all about education.
Fink said the Community Fund board spends much of its time researching nonprofits to find out if they are efficient and it they have accountability.
"We understand where they is a need you might not know about," he said. "The list of nonprofits goes on and on."
The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund was formed in 2000 and Fink said it has taken time for residents to be invested.
"I liken it to a baseball team," he said. "The Rays started playing ball as a new expansion team and everyone here had an allegiance to the Reds or the Cubs (or any other team threw grew up with). Over time, you see more blue and white (the Rays colors). Now kids are growing up with the Rays.
"As more families have more of an investment into Lakewood Ranch, the Community Fund becomes more important. In 2000, people had no skin in the game. This has been a long term vision. Ten years from now, the Community Fund could be its own stand-along foundation."
The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund currently is a fund of the Manatee Community Foundation. Fink said it is likely the nonprofit needs a bankroll of $5 million to stand on its own. He said the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund currently has about $1.3 million ("depending on what the market is doing").
Amanda Tullidge, a Community Fund board member, said Fink is the right guy to lead the nonprofit into the future.
"David's longstanding ties to the philanthropic and corporate circles of Lakewood Ranch will be an enormous asset," she said.
She said he has the vision to modernize the fundraising effort in "today's challenging climate."
Peggy Kronus, a former Community Fund board member who said she will come back and help because she respects Fink so much, said he was an absolutely incredible choice to lead the organization.
"He will be making a difference," she said. "He will get it done ... 100%. He is a man of action."
In 2009, Fink joined the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and in 2015 he was chairman of the board.
"I tend to push," he said of his leadership abilities. "I hope I can lift the people around me. I try to get people excited about the vision. I do think one person can make a difference. If I am not that person, perhaps I can motivate someone to be that person."
It would appear the next two years will be important for the Community Fund. Its signature event, the Gala, was dropped last year. The nonprofit lost about $35,000 in contributions from G.E., which doesn't have as much of a connection to Schroeder-Manatee Ranch as it once did. G.E. had been donating 1% of all its sales in Lakewood Ranch to the Community Fund.
Fink said the grassroots effort will replace and surpass the lost funds. He also said the board members are contemplating another signature event to replace the gala, which he said didn't pay off considering the effort needed to produce it.
He said the Community Fund's alignment with SMR continues to be key. He expects a partnership with the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance to host an event to name the Fund's Humanitarian of the Year (which was held the first time last December) to continue.
Meanwhile, he said the Community Fund needs to help itself by educating the public about its mission. He said that can be accomplished through word of mouth.
"Some people think of those in need as being hungry," he said. "But maybe your neighbor needs adult day care or perhaps a kid in the neighborhood has lost both parents and needs help with grief counseling. Those needs are more difficult to identify."
He also said more effort must be put into short-term goals.
"My goal six months ago was different than today," he said. "We need to understand what we are dealing with (post- COVID-19). The nonprofits have been hit hard. Businesses we've always turned to now have their own problems. We have to see how those businesses rebound. But our long term goal is the same."