At the Nonprofit Leadership Center (NLC), we believe the best lessons in leadership come from leaders themselves. Our 10 Questions With Series celebrates and elevates nonprofit and business leaders who are making an enduring impact on our communities. Today, we’re pleased to introduce you to David Pizzo, market president of the West Florida Region at Florida Blue. Florida Blue is one of NLC’s valued partners whose generosity has made our newly launched Certificate in Leadership program possible.
In his role at Florida Blue, David oversees operations in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Sarasota, Manatee, Lee, and other western counties south to Collier. Prior to this role, he served as Florida Blue’s vice president of advertising, brand management and market communications. Before joining Florida Blue in 1997, David served as senior vice president at Commonhealth (now Ogilvy CommonHealth), the world’s largest health care marketing communications firm.
David is involved with many philanthropic organizations, including serving as the board chairman of Tampa Bay Partnership (2018-2020) and on the boards of the West Central Florida Mental Wellness Coalition and American Heart Association Tampa Bay Metro. David holds a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy from Rutgers University and a Master of Business Administration in marketing and international business from NYU’s Stern Business School.
See what David Pizzo had to share about what funders are looking for in nonprofit partners, the most important traits leaders need now and why he is excited about the new Certificate in Leadership to support rising nonprofit professionals.
Q1. Tell us a little bit about Florida Blue and your company’s commitment to help people and communities achieve better health.
David: At Florida Blue, our mission is to help people and communities achieve better health. It’s not only our purpose as a company but also the standard against which we weigh our actions and decisions.
To fulfill our commitment to keep Florida healthy, our work focuses on ensuring all residents have access to quality health care, know where their next meal will come from and have the support and services needed to promote their mental wellness.
Q2. You are personally involved with numerous nonprofit organizations. What inspired your deep sense of servant leadership, and how has working with nonprofits contributed to your personal and professional success?
David: I didn’t grow up in a wealthy household. I started working when I was in eighth grade and know what it’s like to experience difficult times. As a result, I also know how important mentors, support systems and hard work are to help you through significant challenges.
Helping others succeed is one of my greatest joys in life. We can truly make a difference in people’s lives when we give back. It’s not just about helping people when they’re facing difficult times, but also guiding them onto a path for future prosperity. I’m proud to work for Florida Blue where our mission, not shareholders, drive our decisions and enable us to help people and communities in so many ways.
Q3. How has COVID-19 changed or accelerated the work you are doing in communities to promote health equity and access?
David: Ensuring that every Floridian has access to quality health care is one of the pillars of our work in the community. While it’s an area we’ve focused on for many years, that work is even more critical today.
To expedite advancement in this area, we launched a Wellbeing Challenge to identify innovative solutions to address health and racial inequities in Florida. The four-month challenge, already underway, will award $100,000 to organizations with sustainable approaches to increasing access to affordable health care services and underserved populations or improve opportunities for underserved populations to obtain, understand and use health care information following treatment.
We’ve also committed to invest $25 million during the next five years to address racial injustice and health inequities in Black communities. We want to address the impact of systemic racism on health care outcomes.
Q4. Florida Blue does so much to support nonprofits in Florida. As a funder, what should nonprofits think about or do better when it comes to engaging prospective corporate partners?
David: It’s important to get to know the company’s mission, values and priorities. Do your homework before approaching a company. Do your missions align? It’s essential that nonprofits spend time truly getting to know and understand a company’s needs and areas of focus. When approaching them, highlight how your missions and priorities align.
It’s easy to distinguish nonprofits that are interested in a true partnership and those that just want a check. If you want a true partnership, we are willing to roll up our sleeves and collaborate to make an impact in our community. We look for nonprofit partners that will bring innovative ideas to work together and advance shared goals.
Another thing we look for when assessing community partners is whether there is energy behind the organization. Is there energy in the leadership and excitement about their mission to make things happen?
Q5. You are currently funding a three-year partnership with NLC to support our newly launched Nonprofit Certificate in Leadership (thank you!). Why is this program important to you and the Florida Blue team? What results do you hope it will bring to our community?
David: At Florida Blue, we believe collaboration with the nonprofit community is essential to achieving our mission. When the business and nonprofit communities work together, we can make a tremendous impact on the lives of our neighbors across Tampa Bay and the state of Florida.
To have the biggest effect in our communities, nonprofits need strong leaders who understand the importance of strategic thinking, collaboration, empathy and innovation. That’s why we are excited to partner with the Nonprofit Leadership Center to provide a new Certificate in Leadership for emerging nonprofit leaders in our community that will instill these values through courses that delve into self-awareness, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, data analytics, conflict resolution and more.
The goal of this program is to surround emerging leaders with support, resources and knowledge that will help them strengthen and advance our nonprofits to better serve the people and communities of Florida.
We believe this program will be a great way to support and mentor the nonprofit executives of tomorrow.
Q6. As we think about leadership in our ever-changing landscape, what do you think are the most important attributes or characteristics to be successful as a leader today?
David: I believe there are five things that are important to being a successful leader.
- First, adaptability is critical.
- Second, you must be able to create a vision and rally people around that vision, including your team and partners. None of us have all the ideas, so it’s essential to pull a diverse group together in a trusting and inclusive environment that feels energized to generate ideas.
- Third, keep an eye on results. How do you measure what you’re doing? What goals are you setting? How are you getting your teams to work on them?
- Fourth, good follow-through and good delegation are critical traits. You can’t do it all yourself.
- And finally, always be a catalyst for discussion. Push the envelope on new and exciting things. Here at Florida Blue, imagination is one of our core values. You cannot settle into old ways. You must always be invigorating your teams to think beyond your current position.
Q7. For new professionals or aspiring leaders, what’s the most important piece of advice you’d share?
David: Get engaged. If you sit at your desk all day and do a great job at what you do, that’s not leadership. Get engaged beyond your job and initial responsibilities. Get involved in the community. It’s a way to expand your leadership. You can learn lots of leadership and management techniques through nonprofit work. It’s what we do outside the individual contributor role that helps build our leadership skills.
Don’t limit yourself by your own thinking. Don’t put boundaries around what you do. You can’t look at a person in a job and say they aren’t a leader. They may be outside the workplace at church, PTA or a nonprofit. Everyone has the ability to lead.
Q8. At NLC, we’re big believers in lifelong learning. What’s one area you’d still like to continue honing your skills in?
David: I would like to work more on my public speaking and speaking with the media.
The pandemic has also brought to light another area I’d like to do more work on, which is leading virtual meetings. For the past six months, our team has been working remotely, and this is something that will not be changing anytime soon. I would like to continue to become well versed on using technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as well as learning more ways to make Zoom meetings more engaging and productive.
Q9. What’s the best book, movie or streaming show you’ve recently enjoyed during quarantine?
David: After all the hype, I finally broke down and watched Tiger King. When it was first released and the talk of the town, I kind of dismissed it as something I wouldn’t have any interest in. I eventually gave it a try months later, and I found it interesting — especially with the local ties.
I also enjoy historical-based television shows, such as Vikings on History Channel and The Last Kingdom and The Crown on Netflix.
10. What’s something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
David: Many people don’t realize that I’m a pharmacist. I attended pharmacy school at Rutgers. I ended up moving into pharmacy sales after college, which put me on the path to the business side of health care.
Another thing that I’ve probably never told anyone is that I love the TV show Lucky Dog. I record it every Saturday morning for my wife and I to watch together. It really warms my heart to see shelter dogs get a second chance.
Would you or someone you know be a great leader to profile for an upcoming 10 Questions With feature? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your recommendations.
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