The Next Big Conversation in Florida Philanthropy: How Are We Preparing for Sea-Level Rise?

Florida at night from space.

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The theme of Florida Philanthropic Network’s 2015 Statewide Summit on Philanthropy, which is being held on January 29-30, is “The Next Big Conversations in Florida Philanthropy.” In the spirit of the Summit’s theme, this post is part of a series where we’ve asked some of our member leaders to share their thoughts on the next big conversations that should be taking place in Florida’s philanthropic sector. For more information on the Summit, visit

Thank you to Dr. Mark Pritchett, Senior Vice President for Community Investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, for sharing his thoughts on the next big conversation in Florida philanthropy. 

Most of Florida lives along the coast—just look at a nighttime photo of our state from space. We grow along the coastline here in Florida too. For many of us, the coast is the foundation of our communities. And that coastline is changing. But what are we doing about it?

Much froth has been whipped up in the climate-change debate over whether or not humans are responsible. We can look past that to the fact that rising sea levels are affecting Florida’s coast, right now. And some communities have begun to act.

A seven-county group of elected officials in northeast Florida agreed last year that they should prepare for seas rising as much as six feet in the next century. Kennedy Space Center’s operations manager said this month, “We do consider sea level rise…to be urgent,” and NASA’s plans include a “managed retreat,” if necessary, that would move roads, utilities and perhaps even launch pads. A recent report from our colleagues at The Miami Foundation says, “The rising sea level will have dramatic, long-term impacts on Miami-Dade County, from flooding to water quality to how we grow.” And here in Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation funded policy research on adapting to sea-level rise as far back as 2009.

Our state is as vulnerable as any to the potential impacts of rising seas. We need credible science and realistic modeling in order to prepare. In philanthropy, we are positioned to take the long-term, impartial look at this issue and its implications that others can’t or won’t. For community foundations in particular, if one of our key roles is helping our communities plan for the future, how can we not take part in this conversation?


– Mark Pritchett, Senior Vice President for Community Investment, Gulf Coast Community Foundation

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