Children First Recognized as Change Agent in Philanthropy

March 16, 2022

A smiling boy with dark and wavy hair
A baby drinking milk or formula from a bottle

Children First was one of five human service agencies honored with the 2022 Change Agent Philanthropic Award by SRQ Magazine. The awards were presented at a luncheon held at the Hyatt-Regency Sarasota recently, as part of SRQ’s SB2 symposia series.

The award was presented to organizations which have “proven their grit, determination and capacity to transform in the face of change,” said SRQ Media Executive Publisher Wes Roberts.

“My team and I are incredibly honored to receive this award,” said Children First CEO Philip Tavill. “Being recognized as a change agent, in these times of constant change, is a tribute to both our staff and our supporters.”

Following lunch, guests heard from keynote speaker Sabeen Perwaiz, President and CEO of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

“We are approaching the two-year anniversary of the pandemic. March 13, 2020 changed all of our lives in many ways,” she said. “We saw the resiliency of nonprofits over the last two years. They found a way to survive and support those in need in our communities, often at greater expense and with fewer human resources. We know that nonprofits remain trusted, as funders came together and asked what was the need, and how they could help. I hope that trend [for greater flexibility and support] continues,” she said.

Perwaiz went on to discuss that nonprofits continue to be challenged by a variety of issues including changing technologies, staffing, training for current employees, cyber-security and finding new forms of funding. “What we learned is that we need to be ready and need to be prepared for all of these challenges,” she said.

Following her presentation, representatives of each organization came to the stage: Sandra Frank CEO of All Faiths Food Bank; Philip Tavill, CEO of Children First; Jennifer Vigne, CEO and President of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County; Sara Grivetti, CEO of Neuro Challenge Foundation; and Lisa Intagliata, Executive Director of Resilient Retreat.

Roberts then led a discussion among panel members on a variety of issues facing nonprofits today.

Philip Tavill noted that in 2016 Children First concluded its “Raise Your Hand” campaign that allowed Children First to bring on staff mental health specialists, not only for its children and families, but for staff as well. “Little did we know that in just a few years, demand for those services from staff would be so great and would become so critically important,” he said. “This is a marathon, but we have had to ask everyone to sprint through the marathon,” he said, adding that providing staff support has enabled Children First to adapt during these extraordinarily demanding times.

“For me, the most important tool in my toolkit is an unrelenting focus on our mission. No matter what comes up, no matter what stresses we are facing, it is all about mission, mission, mission. This is so important, so we don’t become distracted by the next shiny object. Even when great change or transformation is called for, we always look at it through the lens of our mission,” Tavill said.