February Member Spotlight

Meet Susan Towler
Executive Director
Florida Blue Foundation

Susan Towler has served as Florida Blue Foundation’s Executive Director since its 2001 founding. A 7th generation Floridian and lifelong Florida Gator, Susan is deeply committed to the state and serves in a variety of volunteer leadership roles with Florida Chamber Foundation, Florida Humanities and The Children’s Movement of Florida. Married to Jim for 30 years, they have one daughter, Emma, who is currently in law school at the University of Florida.


What is your involvement with Florida Philanthropic Network? What influenced you to join?

"The original founders of what is now FPN were organizing around the same time as Florida Blue created the Florida Blue Foundation. Sherry Magill brought me in to meet other foundation executives around the state. I was immediately impressed with the network, knowledge and power of these philanthropic leaders. Florida Blue Foundation has been an FPN member ever since, and I was honored to serve as the board chair in 2015-2016."

    Name one thing you find special about the Florida philanthropic community. 

    "Philanthropy and community work is local, and one can easily work in a silo. Our community leaders see that there is strength in numbers and learning from others. While we have different areas of focus and donor intent, we all work toward creating a better Florida through philanthropy."

      Are there any partnerships or collaborations you have found most meaningful to you in the last year?

      "It’s the people for me – our philanthropic leaders are everywhere! Our Foundation hosted a summit for our Growing Resilient Communities partners, and I was so excited when my Palm Beach friends Eric Kelly and Upendo Shabazz walked in. I’ve also enjoyed working with David Odahowski, Kate Wilson and other members through the Florida Chamber Foundation."

      What's the biggest challenge you've faced with your philanthropic efforts? How have you overcome them?

      "This work can be draining – some days you think, “Has any cause seen improvement? Has any issue been solved?” The biggest challenge is realizing that money doesn’t solve the problems – it helps but often our partners need connection, innovation, and authentic engagement to solve the ever-growing list of community needs. That’s why we started our Foundation’s Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards – we are proud that more than 700 community leaders from all sectors attend our 2-day symposium to learn from experts, each other and recognize that they aren’t alone in solving these issues. That keeps me energized!"

      What fuels your cup- in life and at work?

      "In life – definitely my family and the satisfaction that Jim and I have raised an incredible daughter who has a servant’s heart and is proving to be a pretty effective adult. At work it’s leading a group of incredibly talented professionals who live our company’s mission every day – to help people and communities achieve better health."

      Can you share one piece of advice you would give to someone considering a career in philanthropy?

      "It’s not about you – humility and objectivity are key to success. What might be your personal passion isn’t necessarily the focus of your company or foundation. Be open and willing to learn from people who think differently and have other experiences. And always call Ashley or Geula when you have a question or need information – they are terrific!"


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