We’re often asked to explain Sarasota to outsiders, from journalists doing travel stories to companies and people considering moving here. Everyone gets that we have beaches, and most know something about our arts. But few—even people who live as close as Tampa—have a clue about the leading role charities play in the life of this community.
Not-for-profits seem to grow like summer grass in Sarasota, nourished not only by our hunger for arts and culture, but by our unique demographics—lots of retirees with expertise, time and wealth to share, and lots of service-sector families who struggle to survive in this famously glittering city. As you’ll see in this issue, we’re home to more than 230 well-established not-for-profits. They comprise a significant part of our economy, and they’re a talent magnet, too, attracting top-tier executive directors and board members dedicated to improving the quality of life in Sarasota. And to an exceptional degree, our charities drive Sarasota’s legendary social life, with hundreds of events every year that not only raise money but help newcomers—in this city of newcomers—connect with great new friends and causes.
Good causes (and good parties) get lots of play on our pages, but that’s only a sliver of our involvement. Over the years, we’ve partnered with hundreds of local charities, donating our editorial, sales and marketing expertise to help them raise friends and funds. We do everything from coming up with catchy slogans and planning memorable parties to designing and running free ads in our various publications. We love it when those ads hit the jackpot, as they regularly do—like the four-page insert for a private school that caught the attention of a Hyatt visitor, who picked up the phone and made the first of what turned into many donations, or the much smaller ad that prompted a reader to walk into the office of a little-known charity waving a $10,000 check.
We also get involved in more personal ways. Our employees volunteer for a host of different community causes, from executives who serve as officers on major boards to our newest employee, 23-year-old editorial assistant Beau Denton, who twice a week goes right from work to tutoring elementary and middle-school students who need special help.
Our senior editor, Bob Plunket (aka Mr. Chatterbox), has written so many scripts and emceed so many special events that he’s lost count. He half-jokes that two emcee stints in one weekend this spring—one involved sweltering onstage in a clown’s suit while trying to hold the attention of an unruly crowd—brought on his heart attack. (He’s back and in better shape than ever, as you’ll read on page 27, and he’s already halfway through a script for the Humane Society’s new “mystery night” event in November). We’re also a proud new partner in the Season of Sharing (see page 22), which last year raised an incredible $1.5 million—more than almost any other such initiative in the entire United States.
Clearly, charity is in the DNA of Sarasota. That’s why, 10 years ago, we asked the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to join with us in publishing a guide to local charities and giving. Now in its 31st year, the Community Foundation is an umbrella charitable organization that has helped thousands of donors to make Sarasota a better place. Individuals and agencies partner with the Community Foundation to create permanent endowment funds, ensuring that the good works we all treasure go on forever. Their talented and hardworking staff have inspired and improved every issue of our annual Charity Register, and they’ve also expanded our reach, sending the magazine to their donors and supporters as a year-round resource and guide. We thank them for a decade of partnership and friendship, and for helping us to tell the story of Sarasota’s amazing philanthropic spirit.