GiveWell Community Foundation is a pillar of philanthropy and service in Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties. For more than 13 years, Lori Martini has advised the Community Foundation on philanthropic issues that affect our community.  Lori has played an integral part in increasing Community Foundation assets from $61 million in 2007 to $245 million in 2021.  Prior to joining the Foundation, Martini served as Vice President of Communications for the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce.   Lori attended Penn State University and is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Organization Management, University of Georgia.  She is a graduate of Leadership Lakeland Class 28 and Leadership Polk Class 6.  Recently, I met with Lori to talk about her leadership journey and how she seeks to make a difference in our community and “pay it forward” with those she leads.

Describe your leadership style and share how your mentors have influenced that style.

I like to think of my leadership style as transformational. Transformational leadership by my definition is being a creative thinker and problem solver who inspires those around you. Transformational leaders have a team mentality and truly love the process of accomplishing goals together.  Building relationships is key to successful teamwork. I tend to coach and advise, then delegate authority as the relationship is built and trust is established.

I’ve had remarkable mentors throughout my career that have helped me identify my strengths, focus on my growth areas, and who saw the possibilities of the leader I could become. My leadership style has evolved over the years as a collective result of the lessons learned from these mentors. The mentors in my life have taught me that everything starts with integrity. As a leader if you make every decision in a way that honors your integrity, you cannot go wrong. Integrity combined with fairness and humility are traits that I try to bring to every leadership opportunity.

What is one piece of advice that has guided you through the years as you have navigated your career?

I have a quote that has become somewhat of a mantra to me-  “You don’t have to be the leader to be a leader”.  Wherever you are in your organization, your career, or your life – leadership is demonstrated by choosing to be a role model, by valuing those around you and by being a team player. Leaders exist by their actions not by their titles.  No matter what your role is you can be a source of motivation, creative thinking, and inspiration.

What do you do to recharge and keep burnout at bay?

Time with my family and close friends is the best part of my week. I cherish daily morning walks with my husband. I’m also an avid reader and love the way a good book can  help me unwind and relax after a stressful day.  My favorite place to recharge is at a quiet beach where I can soak up the sun, the smell of saltwater, and the sound of waves crashing in the ocean. A wise friend once told me to take my sorrows to the ocean and allow the waves to take them out to sea.

What are some of the ways you hope that the GiveWell Community Foundation will continue to make a difference in our community?

Every day I come to work knowing that the Community Foundation is made up of generous donors, philanthropists, and community stakeholders.  The Community Foundation seeks to be a voice that reflects the diverse needs throughout our service area. We’re making a difference in the community and beyond. Currently, in collaboration with United Way of Central Florida, we are working with a consulting firm to conduct an overall community needs assessment for Polk, Highlands, and Hardee counties. This process will take more than a year and will involve citizens, organizations, and municipalities throughout the Tri-County area. Our hope is that the results will identify and prioritize the community needs and allow us to share that information with United Way donors, Community Foundation fundholders, and ultimately all stakeholders within each community we serve.  Our mission is to champion charitable giving to improve the quality of life in the areas we serve, both now and for future generations.

What sense of purpose guides you in your work and life?

I have a deep desire to help others and make a difference in the community that I call home.  Polk County is not my birth home, it’s my chosen home.  I have always wanted to leave anything I touch a little bit better than I found it.  Recently, I decided that because I had been afforded so much in my life and career, that I have a responsibility to pay it for forward.  That decision has organically blossomed into a deep desire to support people, especially women, find their voice and discover their passions. By helping women recognize their self-worth and the strength of their abilities, I can help them grow to be the best versions of themselves and that spells success for me.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Emily Rogers, Founder & CEO of Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching and a 2021 Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year Finalist, is an executive coach, business consultant, and retreat facilitator. She strategically advises and supports individuals and organizations in growing and realizing their full potential in purposeful and balanced ways. You can connect with her at http://emilyrogers.com

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