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Betsi Kassebaum is currently the President of south Florida’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civic Engagement.  After teaching ESOL children for 7 years in Broward County she went into the private sector as the manager of the Sun-Sentinel News in Education Department.  She then moved into the world of philanthropy by joining the South Florida Annenberg Challenge where she oversaw the $50 million, public/private match program for Broward and Palm Beach Counties.  But it was during her 9 year tenure as the Executive Director of The Toppel Family Foundation in Boca Raton that she created a successful model for building collaborative community systems change with a modest budget and no staff, earning the foundation several prestigious local awards, including a Sun-Sentinel Community Service Award and Palm Beach County Education Foundation Spirit of Youth Award.

Just prior to initiating the Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civic Engagement, Betsi assisted in the reorganization and enhancement of Take Stock in Children of Palm Beach County, increasing their budget, staff, profile, and community support during her short 6 month tenure.

Betsi was named a 2011 Palm Beach County Bank of America Local Hero as well as a 2011 March of Dimes Woman of Distinction. She is currently nominated as a 2013 Soroptimist of Boca Raton/Deerfield Beach Women of Distinction. She holds two Master’s Degrees in Education and is currently ABD with her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Adult and Community Education. 



Soroptimist International of Boca Raton/Deerfield Beach
Women of Distinction Award for Nonprofit Professional


What do you enjoy the most about your work?

The honor of meeting independent sector leaders across the region and state. There are so many amazing people working diligently to improve and enhance our community. It’s humbling.

What program with your organization do you get the most excited about?

Pretty much any opportunity to help align efforts across the community. Whenever there is a group of dedicated and positive people in a room, committed to getting out of their silos and looking at an issue from the inside-out, I’m thrilled!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Finding that elusive family/work balance. I think anyone who has a modicum of leadership should be pushing that right now. If we all put our work second to our families, things would still get done, and our community would actually doubly benefit from it. 

What is the most important thing you have learned through the years? 

Patience and perseverance. The work we do is not often something that bears immediate fruit. So we all have to have patience with each other, be willing to allow for some mistakes and missteps, and commit the time to watch outcomes unfold.

How do you relax?

My hubby and I are avid travelers and my camera is always in my hand! Photography has become a wonderful way to help me relax and view the world from a slightly different vantage point.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?

Without a doubt, Scotland. The country has a rugged appeal and kind heart.

Are you where you hoped you would be at this point in your life?

I started out as an ESOL kindergarten teacher in Fort Lauderdale in 1987. It never occurred to me that I would be working in philanthropy. All I ever wanted to do was positively impact as many children as possible. I hope that is where I am now…


Do you have a motto, or some words of wisdom, that has guided you through your life? 

I think Shakespeare had it right…  “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

What word best describes your life right now? 


How do you stay so motivated and committed?

If it stops being fun, stop doing it. Life is to be enjoyed, not merely lived. I surround myself with positive, like-minded people who tend to be smarter and more interesting than me! That’s the key…I’m the groupie, not the rock star.