Title: president and CEO of the Florida Philanthropic Network
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri, and Sydney, Australia (I consider both my hometowns now)
Alma mater: University of Tennessee, Webster University (St. Louis) and University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia)
On the job: I am proud to lead the Florida Philanthropic Network (FPN), a statewide network of funders and foundations who share a commitment to building philanthropy for a better Florida. FPN has over 100 member organizations that represent nearly $8 billion in assets and invest over half a billion dollars annually into the state of Florida.
Since joining in September 2020, we have transformed the organization. Funder membership is up 20 percent and the team has re-engaged in 15 key partnerships across Florida. FPN has been awarded additional project related grants with The Kresge Foundation, Wallace Coulter Foundation, Ventus Charitable Trust, Helios Education Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. FPN also received grants for support in education and in health from the Community Foundation Tampa Bay, Conn Memorial Foundation, Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and Florida Blue.
Giving back: I have had a career in philanthropy for over 13 years, four of which were spent with United Way Suncoast here in Tampa. At United Way Suncoast, I was managing community investments in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Desoto and Sarasota counties.
In March 2020, I was asked to create a Rapid Response Fund process to help those affected by COVID-19. The idea behind this fund was to fundraise and distribute quickly to nonprofits. In under three months, we raised over $1.5 million and distributed these funds to 75 agencies who served over 900,000 individuals and 340,000 families in the Tampa Bay area. There were nights after a long day of virtual schooling my 5-year-old and running United Way’s new investment process that I felt like I could not give anything else. Then I would think about all the people who were suffering and who were impacted by COVID and I would work well into the night to make sure we got this funding distributed to those most in need. This is my most important professional accomplishment because it was not about me at all; it was about helping people in our community in any way possible.
When I’m not working, you can find me with my family and our dog, River, cruising around the Bay on a boat from Freedom Boat Club or binge-watching “Stranger Things” on Netflix.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a performer on Broadway. To this day, there is not a microphone that I don’t like. Karaoke anyone?
My secret talent or skill is that I can coordinate and plan anything. Business meetings, bridal showers, kids’ birthday parties, a girl’s trip to Mexico — you name it, I can plan, coordinate and execute it.
My dream vacation is: My husband and I have traveled to over 30 countries and we still have many more places to see. We would love to travel to Morocco or South America. Of the places I have been to, Greece is my dream destination. The people, the culture, the food, the breathtaking views — I would go back in a heartbeat.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is: I wouldn’t say it was direct advice, but more like a way of living. My grandfather, Henry Schmidt, grew up during the Great Depression and he was the hardest working person I have ever met. I remember asking him once if he ever went hungry or went without as a child. He said, “Ashley, during the Depression, we always had great choices for dinner each night. One night we would have potatoes and beans and the next night we would have beans and potatoes and it was just fine by me.” He taught me no matter your circumstance, it is your choice to see the positives in a situation and not be defined by it.
My favorite thing about Tampa is that Tampa is a city on the rise and it is the best place to work and live in 2022. Our city has seen population growth in the last five years, investment from new tech companies and affiliates who are setting up places of business or are headquartered here now in Tampa, a top-notch airport (I have been to many. I think it is the best), welcoming communities of people and excellent sports, art and dining experiences. Oh, and Tom Brady.
My motto or philosophy that I live by is, “You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.” I love this. Words without action, adaptation or accountability are empty.
My hero or inspiration is my mom and sister. These women paved the way for me personally and professionally.
My pump-up songs are “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top, “Country Grammar” by Nelly, “Hey Ya!” by Outkast, “Adventure of a Lifetime” by Coldplay and “We are the Champions” by Queen.
My most ambitious goal is to raise my two daughters to be courageous, confident and kind. My hope for them in the next 10 to 15 years (my daughters are 8 and 3) is that they launch into their adult lives as their authentic and true selves and lead the lives of their dreams.
The greatest adversity I’ve faced is when my father passed away when I was 20 years old of an aggressive cancer. I instantly grew up in that moment and realized that we don’t take anything with us when we die. It is our relationships and experiences that matter most.