Interview With WPI Alumnus, Michael Meyers

Michael Meyers joined the Board of Trustees at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida in 2018. Additionally, Michael served as the first President of the LGBTQ Fund for Northeast Florida, a role in which he served in for five years.

Prior to the upheaval caused by COVID-19, Michael connected with Caroline Brinton ’10 to discuss what TCF initiatives he’s most looking forward to in 2020, how he uses the organization as a resource for his philanthropy, and more.

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Q: What do you do in your daily life?

A: I am fortunate and get to do a variety of things. My husband, Chad, and I are parents of 14-year-old twins, Kate and Alex, and I spend a lot of time helping with their lives as well as running our household. By profession, I am a lawyer; while I have retired from full-time practice, I still do work for some long-time clients. I also spend a good amount of time on non-profit board work. Happily, all of this still leaves time for regular exercise, reading, and travel.

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Q: Currently, what are you putting your philanthropic resources towards?

A: We are currently primarily focused on supporting our kids’ schools, helping advance LGBTQ inclusion, and supporting the arts in Northeast Florida.

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Q: What do you like most about living in Northeast Florida?

A: I grew up in Jacksonville and would ultimately say I have the area in my blood. We love the weather, the water, and the whole way of life.

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Q: What challenges concern you most about Northeast Florida?

A: The challenges that concern me most are the breakdown in trust between the people and the government and the lack of civil discourse between people. While the government can’t fix all issues, historically, it has contributed significantly to our many accomplishments. If people don’t trust the government and can’t even discuss how to move forward with respect and kindness for one another, it is not good. I will note that these concerns are not specific to Jacksonville but broader.

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Q: When did your path first cross with The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida?

A: I first got to know TCF when I became involved in starting the LGBTQ Community Fund for Northeast Florida. Learning about TCF was a wonderful revelation. Still, to this day, I continue to learn more about the breadth and depth of TCF’s contributions to making Northeast Florida a better place.

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Q: You served as the LGBTQ Community Fund for Northeast Florida’s first President, providing leadership for five years and continuing today to serve on the Advisory Board. How did the LGBTQ Community Fund for Northeast Florida evolve during your leadership?

A: The short answer is a lot. We started as a giving circle where we raised money annually that we immediately put back into the community, and evolved into an endowed field of interest fund thanks to very generous gifts by local philanthropists. Our goal throughout remains to make Northeast Florida a place that welcomes all. Initially, our grants focused on improving the lives of LGBTQ people who are significantly marginalized. In 2018, we completed a survey of the LGBTQ community in Jacksonville and, as a result, modified our focus somewhat to work to build greater community within the LGBTQ community and between the LGBTQ community and the broader Northeast Florida community. One example of the revised focus is that this year we are funding an LGBTQ Film Festival*, which will take place at MOCA on June 11 – 13. The LGBTQ Film Festival is a celebration both within the LGBTQ community and for our broader community.

*Editor’s Note- Due to COVID 19, The LGBTQ Community Fund “Many Sides of Pride Film Festival” has been rescheduled to June 2021.

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Q: What initiatives at The Community Foundation are you most excited about in 2020?

A: One exciting initiative is the update of TCF’s strategic plan, which I would describe as a periodic reassessment of both what we are doing and how we are doing it. The needs in our area are great, and TCF is such an incredible resource. Deciding what we should be doing, and equally important what we will not be doing, is a critical dialog. We will be striving to make TCF’s contributions to our community even more significant, which is, in some ways, hard to imagine.

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Q: What is a lesson you’ve learned about building a stronger community?

A: I’ve learned the power each of us has to contribute to change, and of how we can make significant changes collectively. In different ways, every one of us can help make things better. When we work together, the collective results are amazing.

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Q: How do you decide when your philanthropic investments have been successful?

A: For me, it starts at the time of making an investment, by determining there is a plan about what is to be accomplished. At the end of the investment, we measure the outcome. Success is most easily seen if the goal is achieved; however, even when this does not occur, successful learnings can be found by identifying adjustments designed to reach the outcome sought within the investment.

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Q: How do you use The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida as a resource for your philanthropy?

A: What I find so amazing about TCF is the breadth and depth of understanding of philanthropy in northeast Florida. Presented with a philanthropic interest, ranging from cancer to water pollution to prison reform, TCF staff has access to best practices nationally, has knowledge of local resources, and can work with donors to craft a plan that is smart, effective, and fulfills the donor’s objectives. It’s pretty awesome!