Sarasota Scene Magazine: Philanthropy | The Power of Collaboration: Benjamin R. Hanan & Gulf Coast Community Foundation

Sarasota Scene Magazine: Philanthropy | The Power of Collaboration: Benjamin R. Hanan & Gulf Coast Community Foundation

By Joshua Thomas Bray. Photo by Lori Sax.

The following article appeared in Sarasota Scene Magazine in October 2023:

Sarasota is a hub of philanthropic activity, where altruism and progress intersect to create a vibrant community. At the forefront of our local humanitarianism is Gulf Coast Community Foundation—an organization that spearheads philanthropic initiatives and drives the region toward a brighter, more prosperous future.

Founded in 1995, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has stood as a pillar of progress, bridging the gap between visionaries and transformative initiatives. With a mission that resonates with the aspirations of the community, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has embarked on a journey to transform Sarasota into a center of innovation, education, and cultural enrichment. From education to healthcare, from the arts to the environment, the Foundation’s footprint is as diverse as it is profound.

Central to the Foundation’s philosophy is its commitment to sustainability, inclusivity, and creative problem-solving. It is not merely a charitable institution but a dynamic force that collaborates with nonprofits, businesses, and individuals to drive meaningful change. With a focus on collaborative giving, the Foundation thrives on the belief that collective efforts yield the most impactful outcomes.

Throughout its existence, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has made a positive impact on our region through many proactive initiatives and by providing more than $500 million in grants, which includes over $10 million in scholarships to aid students in pursuing higher education. The important initiatives it undertakes are fueled by many of the Foundation’s community partners and donors—partners and donors whose synergistic beliefs and goals enhance our community and touch the lives of many. One of Gulf Coast’s most ardent supporters is Ben Hanan—a man who also believes in the power of collaboration.

man standing outside in front of trees during the day
Benjamin R. Hanan

As a senior partner at Shumaker, Hanan has not only excelled in the professional sphere but has also extended his expertise to serve the community. Born and raised in Sarasota, his parents, Lewis and Sandra Hanan, instilled in him the importance of community and giving back. After finishing school and spending a short time living outside of Sarasota, Hanan and his wife, Stacy, moved back in 1997. Upon his return, Hanan sought out ways to become involved in various community organizations. It wasn’t long before he discovered the Foundation and the doorway to a new philanthropic collaboration.

“Prior to joining the Gulf Coast board, I had limited familiarity with community foundations and the tremendous impact that they have. Although, as a partner with Shumaker, I had a few clients that were donors at the time, I had limited involvement with Gulf Coast. I was invited to join the board and jumped at the opportunity. I quickly learned that the Foundation is not merely an ‘ATM’ that takes money in and doles money out. The professionals at Gulf Coast Community Foundation seek to understand the challenges of our community, analyze the individual situations, and then make critical, data-driven recommendations as to how Gulf Coast can truly make an impact and ‘move the needle’ rather than just throwing money at a problem.”

In addition to serving on the Gulf Coast board from 2008 to 2017 and serving as its board chair in 2014 and 2015, Hanan has been elected to other local boards including All Faiths Food Bank, the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, and the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County. He currently serves as chair of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation.

“During my time serving on the Gulf Coast Community Foundation board, I witnessed firsthand how effective ‘catalytic’ philanthropy can be. Some community foundations focus mostly on responding to funding requests from nonprofit organizations or on simply facilitating grants for the donors who establish funds at the foundation. But at Gulf Coast, they started looking at the root causes of the issues that nonprofits were addressing, the impact that donors said they wanted to have, and then asked, what if we brought them together?”

And Hanan helped the Foundation do just that.

Perhaps the most meaningful collaboration for Hanan centered around his involvement with the Feeding Hungry Families. Based on research into child hunger commissioned by Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Hanan helped All Faiths Food Bank completely transform the way it worked. All Faiths began targeting the underlying causes of hunger and focusing on the quality and not just quantity of the food it distributed. Now Feeding Hungry Families is the backbone of a true hunger-relief system in Sarasota and DeSoto counties, and All Faiths has been recognized nationally for its transformative solutions.

The STEMsmart initiative stands out as another remarkable example of a collaborative endeavor. Through the joint efforts of Gulf Coast Community Foundation, benevolent contributors, and the Sarasota County school district, there was a revolutionary shift in how middle-school students are taught science and math. This transformation wasn’t just about integrating cutting-edge technology but also about equipping educators with the necessary methods and resources to captivate their students. Due to its profound success, the Foundation and its supporters extended this approach to language arts classrooms.

Similarly, the initiative CareerEdge has made a significant and enduring mark. By reimagining the workforce training paradigm in the Sarasota-Manatee area, CareerEdge emphasized industries on the cusp of expansion and assisted employers in training their workforce for success. As these trained employees ascended in their careers, it paved the way for a fresh batch of entry-level professionals. Today, the initiative remains a robust entity under the umbrella of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

His collaborative contributions helped steer the Foundation’s efforts toward education and empowerment. Together, they created multidimensional endeavors that embrace various facets of education and infuse fresh life by inspiring creativity and a love for learning. This approach empowers and nurtures intellectual curiosity and are sowing the seeds of a brighter future for generations to come.

As Hanan’s journey unfolds, his work with Gulf Coast Community Foundation stands as a significant milestone of accomplishment. His dedication to fostering positive change channeled through the Foundation’s visionary initiatives, is characterized by a deep understand of community needs and a relentless pursuit of solutions that can transform lives and reshape communities. The transformative initiatives of the Foundation have not only altered the community landscape but have also ignited a spark of hope, inspiring others, like Hanan, to join the movement of positive change.

Hanan’s passion and the Foundation’s vision remind us that we have the power to shape a better future. By daring to dream, collaborate, and take meaningful action, we can create a better world. We continue to get better and better as a community due to the dedication of people like Hanan and the transformative force of Gulf Coast Community Foundation. It stands as a testament to the beauty of a community united in purpose.