The GiveWell Community Foundation has selected Callie Neslund of Lakeland to be its chief operating officer. Neslund, 37, will assume the role in August, primarily focusing on “future initiatives stemming from the United Community Needs Assessment currently underway, strategic planning, and day-to-day operations,” according to a news release.

“Callie has an impressive track record in both business and philanthropy,” said John Attaway, president and CEO of GiveWell Community Foundation. “Her experience makes her a perfect fit for the chief operating officer role. We are excited to welcome her to our team, and I am confident that she will help GWCF reach new heights.”

The foundation, with headquarters on South Florida Avenue and an office in Winter Haven, is a nonprofit organization that fosters philanthropy in Polk, Highlands and Hardee Counties. It holds more than 300 charitable funds established by individuals, families, organizations, and private foundations and has overseen grants of more than $200 million to community-serving nonprofits.

GiveWell Community Foundation’s Lakeland office

One of Neslund’s main objectives will be making the community aware of the results of the needs assessment and developing strategies to address the identified needs, Attaway said.

Neslund said she plans to conduct a “community road show of sorts to share findings and an action plan to address those needs.”

“Our world and our needs changed drastically as a result of COVID-19. The tri-county needs assessment is such a timely and powerful tool that looks at individual counties – Polk, Hardee, and Highlands — and asks stakeholders to help us understand the new landscape and what challenges come with that … We can use that data to advise donors and direct support to the areas where it’s most needed,“ Neslund said.

GiveWell Community Foundation created the new position to assist with its increased workload, Attaway said. The foundation added new programs in recent years such as the Empower Polk grant cycle, the College Access and Success Initiative, and the United Community Needs Assessment collaboration with the United Way of Central Florida, all while maintaining the small staff of eight people, he said.

“We’ve been fortunate to experience growth in grants, new funds, and total assets for several years … Adding this new position will help us manage our growing body of work and day-to day operations strategically,“ Attaway said.

The foundation hopes to provide more services. “Adding this position will allow us to take on more tasks. We look forward to serving more donors and nonprofits throughout Polk, Hardee, and Highlands counties; expanding the services we offer to local professional financial advisors; and sharing the results of the ongoing needs assessment through the community,” Attaway explained.

Neslund said she has worked with GiveWell Community Foundation for about a decade in various capacities, including as a donor, working as a corporate funder to set up and maintain a community playground, and collaborating with the foundation through her role as board chair of Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE).

Neslund said everything about this new role excites her.“ As an organization, they are such a dynamic force for good. And I have tremendous respect for the team they have there — committed, knowledgeable, consummate professionals,” Neslund said.

Neslund (LinkedIn profile) previously worked for The Mosaic Co. as its Florida director of public and government affairs. Her last day was April 1. There she served as the company’s liaison to the community, business leaders, and elected officials. Her responsibilities included media relations, issues management, and crisis communication. Her team also oversaw many projects that served the community, including the construction of playgrounds and pavilions, and nutrition programs for children and seniors, she said.

Neslund has also served on other nonprofit boards including Catapult Lakeland, the Junior League of Greater Lakeland, and both the Lakeland and Bartow Economic Development Councils. She called taking on this new role a “natural transition.”

“The public looks to GWCF to understand what’s happening on the ground, where resources are most needed, and how to have impact. It’s not unlike my role on the donor side of corporate philanthropy and community relations,“ Neslund said.

A University of Florida graduate and avid Gators fan, Neslund moved to Lakeland during middle school and studied at Lakeland Highlands Middle School and George Jenkins High School.

Neslund plans to take a summer sabbatical and go on road trips with her family and brush up on nonprofit accounting before she starts her new position in August.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips:


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Stephanie Claytor has been a broadcast and digital journalist in Lakeland since 2016, covering Polk County for Bay News 9 and currently free-lancing for LkldNow. She is an author of travel and children's books.

Leave a comment

Your Thoughts On This? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.)