Meet the Florida Philanthropists Betting on Nonprofit Collaboration and Tech Access



If you walk around the offices of many nonprofits, chances are you'll find them a bit depressing, with cramped quarters and anything but a high-tech feel. Working with limited resources and strained budgets, nonprofits are notorious for crummy office space and out-of-date technology. Meanwhile, grantmakers are legendary for their disinterest in funding nonprofit capacity building. Foundations want to back sexy programming, not a new computer server or refurbished conference room. 

Which is why it's nice hear about a wealthy couple in Southwest Florida that’s helping to make nonprofit work a little more tech savvy, collaborative, and comfortable in the city of Fort Meyers.

David and Linda Lucas have lived in Fort Myers, Florida for over 20 years and raised three children here. David is a real estate mogul and the chairman of the board of the Bonita Bay Group. Linda is a former teacher, homemaker, and avid volunteer. The couple often stays quiet about philanthropic endeavors, but it's easy to see that the bulk of their donations have gone to local education. In past years, Lucas support has gone to the Florida Gulf Coast University, Canterbury School, and Lee Public Schools. They’ve also been active donors with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Bonita Springs Community Foundation.

Well just recently, the Lucas couple donated $2.5 million to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation (SFCF) to hep pay for a new collaboratory and tech hub at the funder’s new downtown Fort Myers headquarters. This was SFCF’s first-ever milestone endowment by living donors. Furthermore, the Lucas donation inspired 83 other donors to kick in for the cause, bringing the total raised to $5 million.

“This gift is important because it is not for the building but for the work that will happen inside,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of SFCF. “Nonprofits will have access to technology, data and expertise that will enhance their important, change-making work. The community will also have space to work, explore challenges, and solve problems together and for special events and gatherings.” 

SFCF and the City of Fort Myers are currently working together to transform an old train depot to create the new space with big goals of regional collaboration. The project is also being funding by a $10 million New Market Tax Credit deal to spawn economic development in distressed areas. Therefore, a secondary goal of the new facilities is to breathe new life into a dying neighborhood and perhaps even lure millennial-friendly tech companies into the area. The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2018.

Thus far, David and Linda Lucas do not appear to have established a family foundation separate from their community foundation giving. Meanwhile, SFCF holds over 400 philanthropic funds, with assets of $111 million and total grant investments exceeding $5 million. David Lucas has served on the board of SFCF and also at the United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades. In addition to ongoing education funding at all levels, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some new Protestant religion-affiliated grants coming from the Lucas couple. David Lucas has served on the executive committee and board of Reformed Theological Seminary. Linda Lucas has been very involved with Community Bible Study, serving as the group's secretary for 18 years, and also with the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers.