Sharing their expertise: Tampa Bay executives give back to the community

Success can be defined in many ways.

Usually, it’s measured by wealth and the trappings thereof - homes, cars, travel. For a group of Tampa Bay’s most successful “over 50” entrepreneurs and business leaders, there is another definition - making a difference in their community through sharing their time and talent. 

One of the organizations that facilitates that sharing is Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay. SVP Tampa Bay, the local chapter of SVP International, is a group of motivated people who see the value in relationships as they apply to the nonprofit sector, according to the organization’s website. SVP gathers successful professionals to leverage time, expertise and resources to make strategic investments in the local community. Partners invest in innovative nonprofits and then actively nurture their financial investments with guidance and resources.

Making a difference

In 2016, Mike Lally, SVP co-chair, was looking for a way to make a difference in his new community of Tampa following the sale of the family business in Buffalo, New York. 

Asked what drew him to the Tampa Bay Aaea, in addition to the obvious difference in the weather, Lally lists the lifestyle, great sports teams, a mature and thriving business community - and the weather.  

“I had more time and I wanted to invest in philanthropic enterprises,” Lally says. “I was introduced to Irv Cohen through Seedfunders, a group of Florida-based investors who focus on pre-revenue scalable technology.”

Cohen, a former Wall Street executive, is a founding partner and former chair of Social Venture Partners. 

Lally says he joined SVP Tampa Bay because it’s an organization that makes the community a better place and because he loves personal learning. 

“You find people in this organization who are highly skilled, and it’s very fulfilling work,” he says.   

“We are in the front of the pipeline…it’s a process,” Lally says. “A non-profit comes to us for help. They get advice, they act on it, they qualify for grants, they grow and they come back to us with new ideas. As that non-profit grows, they take advantage of our expertise. It is a virtuous circle.”

Lally calls his commitment to SVP “very rewarding.”

“SVP is focused on serving the community and social good,” he says. “It’s one part service organization, one part philanthropic personal development and one part civic networking”. 

Hands-on volunteerism

Tricia Manning, who serves as co-chair of Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay with Lally, agrees about the importance of networking. Manning is the founder of the St. Pete-based global executive coaching and consulting firm, White Cap Coaching. 

“Our network helps us to build capacity for local non-profits,” she says. “They share their needs with us and we help them on their growth journey by leveraging our partner network.”   

The non-profit organizations that SVP works with participate in what Manning calls SVP’s “signature event,” Fast Pitch. 

Mike Lally and Tricia Manning at Social Venture Partners 2022 Fast Pitch competition.Fast Pitch is a pitch event that empowers local non-profits to tell their story. Interested organizations fill out an application. Ten to twelve are chosen to participate in what Manning calls a sixteen-week incubator process to prepare them for the final event. Included are classes on fundraising, social enterprise, grant writing and marketing.  

In addition to classes, that process provides the participating organizations with a mentor, one of SVP’s partners who helps to develop a smooth, professional pitch, resulting in increased visibility and connections for the non-profit before they even take the stage. 

Fast Pitch winners are provided with unrestricted funds, ranging in amounts from $25,000 to $5,000, meaning they may spend the money on whatever the organization deems most important. SVP Tampa Bay then follows the winning organizations for a year to ensure the money is used. 

Applications are now closed for this current Fast Pitch round. The final pitch presentations will be made in February of 2024 at the Tampa Theatre. The public is welcome. 

Manning says she is passionate about mentoring, calling it a very effective way to accelerate non-profit growth. 

“This type of volunteerism is very hands-on…it’s about connections,” she says.
And not just SVP’s partners. Manning says she loves tapping her own personal and business network. She often calls up a friend saying, “Hey, come help us with this project.” She calls herself a “connector,” likening the mission to putting puzzle pieces together - making it all work. 

Assisting non-profits to grow is not the only focus of Manning’s leadership mission. She is intent on bringing new people to the SVP Tampa Bay table. She says she so often hears people say, I’ll do something when I retire, or when I have more time. 

“Don’t wait to get involved,” Manning says. “Use your time and talent, now.”
SVP Tampa Bay offers the perfect way to do that. Manning says that working with SVP Tampa Bay is “rewarding far beyond writing a check.” 

Not about the money

You can hear the smile in Greg Morgan’s voice when he says, “I’m surprised at how much I enjoy doing stuff that doesn’t make any money.”

Like Mike Lally and Tricia Manning, Morgan is leveraging his successful career, in his case as an experienced commercial and residential real estate professional and asset manager currently with Smith & Associates Real Estate, to give back to the community. And he has been called on to do that in some innovative ways. Greg Morgan.

After a successful turn as Annual Giving chairman for St. Mary’s Episcopal Day School, where his children attended, he was invited to join the board of the West Central Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross, eventually serving as chairman. 

“Let’s face it, says Morgan, “No one wants to ask for money.”
But he did it so successfully that he said it turned out “to be fun.” Servant leadership is always about mission before self. For Morgan, the mission turned out to be using his extensive real estate background to find a location for the Red Cross that would serve as a regional headquarters, consolidating the oversight of their central Florida and U.S. Virgin Island chapters. After closing the sale of the organization’s current location, he donated his sizeable commission back to the Red Cross. 

Such charitable instincts may well have been refined in the 2008 real estate downturn, which Morgan refers to as “having the rug pulled out from under us.” When Morgan heard that prominent real estate attorney, Ron Weaver was starting an organization called Real Estate Lives to help industry professionals find work, he jumped on board to shepherd small groups of high-level executives through the transition. 

Morgan’s current passion project is serving on the Executive Committee of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (FMoPA), a non-profit that collects, preserves and exhibits historic and contemporary works by important photographic artists. After several less-than-ideal locations, FMoPA has found a home in the Kress Building in the burgeoning Ybor City arts district. Thanks to Morgan’s real estate expertise and developer Darryl Shaw’s vision, Tampa has a beautiful storefront location to appreciate the power of photography.  

Morgan asks a question, “What’s my purpose in life?” 

He answers himself by saying, “Mine is to love and be loved. We all have the power…if you can love when it’s difficult, it’s magic. It’s never really about money…we do way too much measuring.”

For more information, go to Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay and Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.
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Read more articles by Pamela Varkony.

Pamela Varkony’s non-fiction topics range from politics to economic development to women's empowerment. A feature writer and former columnist for Tribune Publishing, Pamela's work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and in PBS and NPR on-air commentaries. Her poetry has been published in the New York Times. Recognized by the Pennsylvania Women's Press Association with an "Excellence in Journalism" award, Pamela often uses her writing to advocate for women's rights and empowerment both at home and abroad. She has twice traveled to Afghanistan on fact-finding missions. Pamela was named the 2017 Pearl S. Buck International Woman of Influence for her humanitarian work. Born and raised in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Pamela often weaves the lessons learned on those backcountry roads throughout her stories.